When a doctor proposes a medical procedure or treatment to a patient, the doctor must inform the patient fully about the risks involved. This is known as “informed consent.” If informed consent is not obtained from a patient and that patient is injured, there may be grounds for the patient to sue the doctor for medical malpractice.
Informed consent is how doctors provide essential information about the procedure to the patient and obtaining the patient’s agreement to complete a certain medical procedure or treatment. Since most medical procedures or treatments involve some risk, it is the doctor’s responsibility to inform the patient of those risks. The doctor should give the patient information about the particular procedure or treatment they will be undergoing so that the patient can decide whether they should allow the treatment, procedure, or test to be performed.
Typically a doctor has the patient sign a form that gives details about the treatment or procedure. However, simply signing the form does not automatically mean that the patient gave informed consent. The doctor must discuss the procedure or treatment with the patient and ensure that the patient understands to the greatest extent possible the risks he or she will face while undergoing the treatment or procedure.
When telling the patient about the risks involved with a certain procedure or treatment the doctor does not have to tell the patient about every possible thing that may happen as a result. However they must inform the patient about the risks that are most important. Additionally, there are cases where informed consent is not required, such as emergencies or the patient is emotionally fragile. In cases of emergencies the doctor must act quickly to save a life and there is no time to describe the risks. Where the patient is too emotionally distressed and would refuse needed treatment the doctor may withhold some information but later the doctor needs to show a clear reason why the risks were not disclosed to the patient.
Obtaining informed consent is crucial. If informed consent is not given and the patient would not have gone through with the treatment or procedure had he or she known about the risks, the patient may have a claim for medical malpractice.
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