Medical malpractice cases often focus on medical or surgical errors performed by the doctor in the course of treatment, including failing to diagnose or treat a condition as well as mis-performing a procedure below a reasonable, acceptable standard. But some procedures contain inherent risks that could cause harmful side effects even if the treatment or procedure is conducted properly. In that case, it is important to consider whether the doctor obtained the patient’s informed consent before proceeding to treat. Failure to obtain informed consent can itself be medical malpractice, and the doctor or hospital can be held liable for the damages caused.
What is Informed Consent?
Medical malpractice cases based on a lack of informed consent most often arise during elective procedures or where the patient has more than one option. In order for the patient to make an informed decision about whether to undergo the recommended treatment, surgery, medication, or other course, the patient should be told what alternatives there are to the recommended course. This may include other medications, more or less invasive surgeries, or even the option of doing nothing. For instance, even if a patient is diagnosed with cancer, certain types of cancers are very slow-growing, and given the patient’s age and other health factors, an aggressive cancer treatment may kill the cancer yet cause more harm to the patient than a less-aggressive approach or even simply doing nothing.
In addition to disclosing alternatives, the patient should be told what the reasonably foreseeable risks and benefits of the different choices are. Only when armed with all of this information can a patient make a well-informed decision about what course of action to take with regard to a particular illness or medical condition.
When Is It Malpractice?
If a doctor fails to obtain the patient’s informed consent or fails to disclose pertinent information, and it can be shown that a reasonably prudent person would not have chosen the procedure had the risks been known, then the doctor may be held liable for the damages caused to the patient. If you experienced adverse effects from a medication or medical procedure that you were not told about in advance, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. in New York City for a free consultation regarding your rights to be compensated for the damages caused to you.