Is a Doctor Liable If I Did Not Give Consent for Medical Treatment?

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Before undergoing medical treatment, a patient has a right to know exactly what the treatment entails, including any important risks that may be associated with the treatment or procedure. The doctor administering treatment has the responsibility to provide all the pertinent information the patient may need to make an informed decision and agree to proceed with the recommended treatment. This is known as informed consent. Failure to obtain a patient’s consent can result in grounds for a medical malpractice suit should the patient suffer any injury as a result of the treatment.

When Does a Patient Have to Give Consent?

Examples of medical treatment that require the patient’s informed consent include:

  • Surgery
  • Anesthesia
  • Chemotherapy and radiation treatment
  • Experimental medications or devices
  • Implanting a device
  • Blood transfusions

If a procedure is performed without a patient’s knowledge, the victim should speak to a lawyer right away.

Why is it Important to Give Consent?

It is crucial to have clear communication between a patient and their doctor. Informed consent allows the patient to be in control of their own body, and it protects their rights. Before a medical procedure begins, a doctor should discuss in detail about their treatment so a patient can decide what is best for them. A patient can always refuse a service if they find a procedure to be too risky. A doctor can guide and inform a patient, but they can never overstep a patient’s rights.

If a patient did not consent to a medical procedure, a doctor will be responsible for any injuries or illnesses that happen as a result. A physician should always explain the most important risks involved so a patient can make an informed decision.

What Information Must be Disclosed to a Patient?

The medical provider must disclose to the patient the diagnosis of their medical condition and the options for treating it. The recommended or preferred option for treatment must be thoroughly explained in simple language that the patient can understand. Any risks associated with the medical treatment, as well as the consequences of declining the treatment, must be disclosed to the patient. Usually, when a patient accepts treatment, they are required to sign a statement of informed consent.

What is a Consent Form?

A consent form should outline the treatment and all possible risks. A patient should always review the form before signing. Accepting medical treatment is an important decision, and a patient should always be aware of the risks. A patient has a right to ask any questions about the consent form. If they do not agree to an element of the form, they can opt to avoid treatment. Additionally, if a patient does not agree with the entire consent form, they can choose to receive only part of the treatment.

How is Consent Obtained?

Only able adults may sign a consent form. Minors and mentally handicapped people must have a parent or guardian sign for them. Adults who are incapacitated due to intoxication, trauma, a high level of stress, Alzheimer’s disease, or in a coma condition cannot provide informed consent. In these cases, a person with a medical power of attorney would have to sign the consent form.

There are certain steps a doctor must take before they perform a procedure. When a physician is obtaining informed consent from a patient, they must thoroughly discuss certain details, including an explanation of the diagnosis, the procedure, the risks and benefits involved in the medical procedure, and information about any alternatives.

Do the Risks Have to be Disclosed to a Patient?

A physician must disclose the most important risks to a patient before a procedure; however, what is considered vital is subjective. Risks should be disclosed to consider if another doctor would also disclose the risk, if another procedure could be performed to minimize the danger, or whether a patient would have changed their mind about the procedure. If a patient incurred an injury because a risk factor was not disclosed to them, they should immediately consult a lawyer to evaluate the case.

Exceptions to the Informed Consent Rule

In certain cases, exceptions to the informed consent rule may apply. For example, in a medical emergency where immediate treatment is needed to save a life, there is no time for the doctor to obtain the patient’s informed consent. Likewise, the patient may not claim lack of informed consent, even if they would have refused treatment under normal circumstances.

Doctors are also able to withhold information from patients considered too emotionally fragile to bear the information normally disclosed before treatment. For example, in the case of a patient whose anxiety is so great that they would refuse a procedure, even if they are told it is the only way to treat their condition, the doctor may be allowed to be vague when explaining the risks involved. However, anytime a doctor withholds information from a patient, there must be a clear explanation behind the decision to do so.

Informed Consent and Medical Malpractice

Failure to obtain informed consent from a patient is considered medical malpractice when the patient suffers harm as a result of the medical treatment. A successful medical malpractice suit must show that the doctor did not have the patient’s informed consent at the time of the procedure. In other words, if the patient had been fully aware of the risks associated with the treatment, they would not have given consent and thus avoided the harm incurred by the treatment.

It should also be noted that informed consent is an acknowledgement of the possible risks of treatment that does not exempt the physician from a duty of care. It is not a waiver of the patient’s rights to an accepted standard of care. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that risks of surgery caused by negligence are not related to consent.

Can a Lawyer Help with My Medical Malpractice Case?

To bring a lawsuit against a health care provider, a victim must retain a knowledgeable lawyer. Medical malpractice cases are often complex, especially when one must prove they failed to give consent for a procedure. A victim may be able to collect compensation after they suffer an injury caused by medical malpractice. A person may collect certain damages, including payment for medical treatment and hospital bills, lost wages and earning capacity, and future rehabilitation or physical therapy. In some cases, damages for pain and suffering may be collected. A medical malpractice lawyer will be able to ensure that their client receives the maximum amount of compensation that is available in their case.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Obtain Justice for Victims of Unauthorized Medical Treatment

If you were in a situation where a medical procedure was performed without your consent, you may be able to pursue a suit for medical malpractice. Our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton protect clients against negligent physicians, and we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) for a free consultation today.

With offices in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.