What Is Informed Consent?

Informed consent medical malpractice claims can be complex. Retain a qualified Kansas City medical malpractice attorney to maximize your odds of compensation as a plaintiff in these situations. “Informed consent” is a phrase a patient might hear prior to undergoing a surgery or other procedure. Every patient must give his or her informed consent before a doctor, surgeon, or other medical professional may start a procedure or treatment.

Failure to get informed consent from a patient yet conducting the procedure anyway, which then results in patient harm, is against the law. It could result in a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician and/or the hospital. As a patient in Kansas City, here’s what to know about informed consent, including potential opportunities to file a lawsuit.

About Informed Consent in a Medical Setting

All medical procedures come with some degree of risk. It is the doctor’s duty to inform a patient of these risks, giving all necessary information about a treatment. The patient must make an informed decision about whether to go through with it. It is a patient’s duty to weigh the risks vs. rewards of the procedure and to either give or deny consent. This information-giving and receiving process is essential for the safe and effective treatment of patients. In both medical and legal terms, the process is knowns as “informed consent.”

If a doctor does not receive informed consent from a patient, he or she cannot perform the procedure or treatment in question. Doing so without consent and causing a patient harm could be medical malpractice. “Informed consent” can mean a few different things. In most cases, a patient must sign a consent form that outlines all the risks of the procedure. This form acts as a legally binding contract giving the patient’s consent. However, the form alone is not enough proof that the doctor received the patient’s informed consent. Even if a patient signed a waiver, he or she could argue that the doctor failed to make certain risks clear.

A doctor must fully explain a procedure to a patient, including discussing all the risks. While a doctor doesn’t have to list every single thing that could go wrong, he or she must name risks that are “important.” What risks qualify as important enough to explain prior to performing a procedure depend on the circumstances. Identifying risk importance is one of the many necessary steps in deciding a medical malpractice lawsuit regarding informed consent.

What Information Must a Doctor Give a Patient?

The question of whether a patient gave his or her informed consent prior to a procedure often comes down to what information the doctor gave the patient. There are two main standards Kansas City court generally uses when deciding what information a doctor should have supplied a patient. The first is the question of what information about the risks of a procedure another “reasonable and prudent” medical professional would have given the patient in the same situation.

An injured patient typically must hire a medical expert with the same background or experience as the defendant to prove that a reasonable and competent doctor would have disclosed a certain risk or risks to the patient. In general, this determination will come down to how statistically likely the risk is to happen, and whether the odds were high enough that the doctor should have disclosed the information. The second standard the courts will use to judge an informed consent case has to do with the patient. It asks, “Would a normal patient have changed his or her mind about consent to the procedure had the doctor disclosed the risk?”

This standard looks at a hypothetical situation in which the doctor did give the patient information about the risk in question. It asks if the information would have been enough to make another patient with the same conditions and medical history change his or her mind about undergoing the procedure. If the answer is no, the courts will likely rule in the defendant’s favor. The basis is that even if the doctor had explained the risk, the plaintiff still would have agreed to the surgery.