In a nutshell, informed consent is your right to know enough information about your own medical condition and the risks of any medical procedure you are about to have in order to make an educated decision about whether or not you want to proceed.
It sounds simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, patients are often handed a sheet of paper that lists off a group of possible negative outcomes of anesthesia and another one that discusses the possible negative outcomes of a surgery and asked to sign without much discussion.
The patient often signs the paper and assumes that all the risks are remote — otherwise, he or she figures the doctor would have a more careful, focused discussion about the possibilities.
In reality, a good doctor should always discuss the risks of any medical procedure with his or her patient — even as something as simple as a new prescription has risks that should be discussed before the drug is prescribed. Unfortunately, studies indicate that some areas of medicine seem to be less adept at keeping their patients informed of the risks — or perhaps, they are simply less willing to do so.
At least one study indicates that plastic surgeons are responsible for around 57 percent of complaints about a lack of informed consent. Since cosmetic surgery is quite often a matter of desire, not necessity, it’s very possible that plastic surgeons are hesitant to bring up the complications that can follow a procedure that doesn’t go as planned. Giving a patient too much negative information could potentially scare off a sizable percentage of the clientele, which is naturally bad for the business.
In other situations, the doctor may simply forget that it is his or her role to make sure that the patient is properly informed of the risks — not the responsibility of the nurse who hands the patient the paperwork to sign. When doctors fail to take responsibility for having a fully-informed patient, patients are ultimately forced into the position of taking a blind risk every time they consent to any medical care.
If you suffered medical harm from a lack of informed consent, a medical malpractice attorney can help you learn more about your legal options.
Source: FindLaw, “Understanding Informed Consent – A Primer,” accessed June 16, 2017