Smiley & Smiley, LLP

Understanding the basics of informed consent

Understanding the concept of informed consent is important for a host of reasons. Nearly every patient who undergoes surgery or medical treatment is asked to sign an informed consent form before physicians move forward with care. Although many patients understandably gloss over informed consent forms, these legal documents are critically important and should be considered carefully.

In essence, informed consent may only be given under certain circumstances. Although a physician may request that a patient sign a form after giving that patient very little information, the law generally requires physicians to give patients the information they need in order to reasonably understand their condition, their treatment options, their prognosis and any risks present in their circumstances.

If a physician fails to provide a patient with this necessary information and that patient is harmed by the lack of information (whether or not an informed consent form was signed by the patient), that patient may be able to hold the physician accountable. Every situation is different, so it is generally beneficial for patients who believe that they were not given the opportunity to provide informed consent to speak with experienced attorneys. Attorneys can then advise those patients of their legal options in light of their unique situations.

It is worth noting that informed consent may not be required in emergencies and other special situations. However, most of the time patients are entitled to information necessary to make informed decisions about their conditions. Without this information, physicians may be held accountable if harm results from this negligence.

Source: Findlaw Injured, “What is Informed Consent?” Le Trinh, June 18, 2015

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