In most circumstances, prior to doctors and other medical professionals providing a patient with a course of treatment or other procedure, it is very important (and often times required) that the patient’s informed consent be obtained. One of the most common ways for informed consent to be obtained by medical professionals is to have the patient sign or fill out a consent form. However, the question of how much patients really understand still exists.
During the process of informed consent, the potential benefits and risks of a particular course of treatment, surgical procedure, or other type of care are discussed with the patient. Possible alternative treatments or procedures are also discussed with the patient so they are able to make a fully informed decision about the medical care they will be receiving. The patient’s consent or authorization to go through with the medical procedure is provided by the signing of a document that acknowledges that they had been provided with the necessary information to make the decision.
The conversation between the physician and the patient is extremely important and should not be delegated to a nurse or other medical professional. Simply having the patient sign the informed consent document is not enough as the consent form may be written at a level that is too high for the average participant to understand. Having a discussion with patients gives them the opportunity to ask questions about the procedure, clarifies what dangers are involved, helps the physician avoid surgical mistakes, and allows patients to discuss what is contained in the document.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has suggested that medical professionals discuss and disclose certain pieces of information with patients to help ensure that patients are given informed consent. This information includes:
- The patient’s diagnosis;
- The nature and purpose of the proposed treatments or procedures;
- The risks and benefits of the proposed treatments or procedures;
- Whether there are any alternative treatments or procedures available;
- The risks and benefits of alternative treatments; and
- The risks and benefits of foregoing treatments or procedures.
If you have been injured as a result of undergoing a medical treatment or procedure, and believe that you were not fully informed of the situation prior to the treatment or procedure, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
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