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What is Informed Consent in a Medical Malpractice Case?

If you (God forbid!) have to file a medical malpractice case, you will have to make your way through a maze of legal jargon. "Informed consent" is one phrase that will crop up occasionally. Know what it means to figure out if you have a medical malpractice case at all. This will save you many trips to the attorney's office.

What is the Informed Consent Law?

Most medical procedures, like surgeries, or treatments, like the administration of certain drugs, involve some risk, however, miniscule it may be. A doctor can only recommend a course of treatment; the final choice of whether or not to choose a procedure or undergo a treatment method rests with the patient. However, patients decide based on the information provided by the doctor.

It is the legal right of the patient to be informed about his medical condition, the different treatment methodologies that will work for him, any alternative procedure, the risks associated with each method, the prognosis, and the repercussions of jumping ship from any sort of treatment program. It is the "legal" duty of the doctor to provide this information to his patient. And he must do so in a way-using simple easy-to-understand language-such that his patients can comprehend the information and use it to decide.

If your doctor has provided you with this information and has helped you understand the implications, any decision that you make regarding your treatment is considered informed consent. You may also be asked to sign informed consent forms by many doctors and medical facilities.

However, you can give your informed consent only if you are considered "competent" by general standards. An adult who does not suffer from any psychological disorder or is not mentally impaired in any way is considered competent. In case of a minor, a competent parent or guardian can give consent.

Informed Consent and Unauthorized Treatment

Lack of informed consent and unauthorized treatment performed on a patient make a doctor liable to be charged with a civil and/or criminal offense like gross negligence or battery. You can sue a doctor or a medical establishment for unauthorized treatment or lack of informed consent. But you can hope to win the lawsuit only if you can prove that the clause was breached, that you would not have agreed to the medical procedure had you known about the outcomes, or that you have suffered as a result of undergoing the unauthorized treatment.

When is the "Informed Consent" Law not Applicable?

Like all legal clauses, the informed consent rule too has exceptions. Knowing about the exceptions will help you figure out if you have a valid medical malpractice case.

The exceptions to the this law include emergency situations when the doctor has to rush to perform a life-saving medical procedure and has no time to explain his actions or take consent. The law also does not apply in cases of emotionally fragile patients who are apt to grow sicker with anxiety or refuse a life-saving treatment if they learn about the risks of a procedure.

There can be, however, more complex interpretations of the informed consent rule. If you are unsure, a medical malpractice attorney can help you.

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