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What Is Informed Consent?

Before a physician, nurse, or other health care provider may perform an invasive test, procedure, or treatment protocol, they must inform you about the risks and benefits, discuss alternative treatment options, and obtain your written permission to proceed. This is known as informed consent. Assuming you are of sound mind and able to make decisions about your medical care, a health care provider may not administer treatment until you provide informed consent.

If your health care provider does not get your informed consent, and you suffer an injury while under their care, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

What Should Be Covered in the Informed Consent Process?

Your health care provider has a responsibility to provide you with the information you need in order to make an informed decision about your care. In addition, they must explain the information in a way that is understandable so that you are not confused by complex medical jargon. You should also be encouraged to ask questions and express concerns. If you do not speak English, or there are other communication barriers, your health care provider must take proactive steps to ensure that you understand the information.

During the informed consent process, your health care provider should cover the following information:

  • The name of your health condition.
  • The name the procedure or treatment protocol that your health care provider recommends, including a detailed description of each.
  • The risks and benefits of the recommended treatment of procedure.
  • The risks and benefits of alternative treatment options.
  • The risks and benefits of refusing the recommended treatment.

Once you have signed the consent form, it means that you have been informed about your treatment options, you were given the opportunity to ask questions, and you have agreed to receive the recommended treatment. The signed consent form is a legal document that allows the physician to proceed with treatment. If, at any point, you change your mind, simply discuss your decision with your health care provider. Even if you have already started treatment, you have the option of changing your mind.

What if I Want to Refuse Care?

After your health care provider has informed you about your condition and the recommended treatment options, you have the right to refuse care. Too often, informed refusal is overlooked, despite the fact that it is just as important as informed consent. When this happens, it can increase the risk of potentially serious health complications. You have the right to refuse part of all or the recommended treatment options after your health care provider has discussed your treatment plan.

In addition, you should expect the following from your physician:

  • Listen to your concerns. It is important that your physician takes your concerns seriously, regardless of how trivial your reasons for refusing care may seem from a clinical standpoint. You should feel comfortable asking questions about the recommended course of treatment and expect answers that address your concerns. This will give your physician the opportunity to determine whether your refusal of care is based on misinformation or due to issues like costs, which should not prevent you from receiving the care you need.
  • Provide you with options. When you have been diagnosed with a health condition, you may feel scared, overwhelmed, and confused. If your physician can provide you with options, it may help you feel more in control of your health. When discussing each option, your physician should thoroughly explain the pros and cons for each.
  • Give you time to digest the information. You should not be rushed into making a major decision about your health. If you refuse care, your physician should allow you to consider your decision and weigh your options. In addition, they should be available for any follow-up questions. 

When Is Informed Consent Not Required?

While health care providers must get your informed consent before they may proceed with any testing or treatment, there are exceptions to this rule, including the following:

  • Medical emergency: If there is no time to describe the risks involved in treating a medical emergency, and delaying treatment to get informed consent puts your life at risk, you likely cannot file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician. Health care providers will attempt to obtain your consent as soon as you are able to give it.
  • Emotionally fragile patients: A physician may not be required to get informed consent if the patient will likely refuse treatment because of their emotional state. In addition, if you are already overwhelmed and anxious, and disclosing details about a necessary procedure will be too much for you to handle, the physician may withhold certain information. However, they must be able to provide an acceptable reason for withholding the information.

Can Someone Else Give Informed Consent On My Behalf?

There are some cases that would allow another person to give consent to perform a medical procedure or proceed with a recommended treatment protocol. For example, you can assign a family member or close friend to make medical decisions for you by filing an advance directive or other legal document that specifies who you would like to be responsible for your medical care. In addition, you may request that your health care provider only shares the most pertinent information and that they make the medical decisions for you.

Dayton Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Wright & Schulte LLC Represent Clients Who Were Denied Informed Consent

If you were not given the opportunity to give your informed consent for medical treatment and you suffered an injury or health complication, you are urged to contact our Dayton medical malpractice lawyers at Wright & Schulte LLC. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 937-222-7477 or contact us online. Located in Dayton, Ohio