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What Is Informed Consent?

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Updated June 28, 2020 | Medical Malpractice |

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Medical treatments and procedures have many potential benefits and can be used to treat ailments, cure diseases, and fix injuries, but at the same time, they often come with side effects, risks, or complications. In order to make the best choice for their health and provide consent, patients must be properly informed of all risks, benefits, and alternatives so they can make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the treatment or procedure.

It’s the responsibility of doctors and medical professionals to provide patients with that information, and if they do not properly inform their patients of both the risks and benefits, they could be found guilty of medical malpractice.

What Does Informed Consent Mean?

Treating physicians or other healthcare providers must inform their patients of all potential risks, side effects, benefits, and alternatives before performing a medical procedure or any course of treatment. This process is called informed consent.

Informed consent has two parts: the rights of the patient and the responsibility of the medical professional. In other words, patients have the right to decide what happens to their body, and medical professionals have the responsibility to provide their patients with the information they need before consenting to treatment.

What Information Should Be Disclosed

In general, healthcare providers must inform their patients of the following:

  • The condition being treated
  • The nature and character of the proposed treatment or procedure
  • The anticipated results of the proposed treatment or procedure
  • The recognized possible alternatives, including non-treatment, of the proposed treatment or procedure
  • The recognized possible risks, complications, and benefits of the proposed treatment or procedure

Providing this essential information allows patients to make informed decisions.

How Does Informed Consent Work in Indiana?

Healthcare providers are usually expected to obtain a written copy of a patient’s consent before moving forward with a procedure or treatment. However, proof of consent varies by state.

Indiana medical professionals are not required by law to obtain written consent, but most facilities do obtain written consent because it provides them with protection against any potential medical malpractice lawsuits.

What If a Patient Cannot Give Informed Consent?

Sometimes, patients are unable to give informed consent. For example, unresponsive patients, patients with mental disabilities, or minors cannot legally give consent.

In these situations, a parent, guardian, or legally appointed representative is responsible for making decisions on the patient’s behalf.

When Is Informed Consent Not Required?

There are some situations in which a medical professional does not need informed consent from a patient before performing certain treatments, specifically in emergency situations, when a patient is unconscious, and during routine medical treatment.

Emergency Situations

In an emergency situation, patients may be incapacitated and require immediate medical treatment. So, in the interests of saving the patient’s life, a doctor may forgo informed consent and treat the patient.

Lack of Consciousness

Patients may arrive at the hospital while unconscious and need immediate attention. For example, if someone passed out at a grocery store and arrived at the hospital by ambulance, there may not be a way to find a spouse or family member to give consent. The law would generally allow a doctor to perform emergency surgery in this case, even without informed consent.

Routine Medical Procedures

Various routine medical procedures do not require informed consent. Taking vital signs or performing non-invasive tests pose virtually no risk to patients, so there is no need for getting informed consent in these situations.

When Is a Lack of Informed Consent Medical Malpractice?

Informed consent, other than a few exceptions, is required. Patients have the right to the information they need to make decisions about their health.

A doctor or medical professional must get informed consent from a patient before a procedure. If a patient does not consent to a treatment and is then injured, the doctor could be sued for medical malpractice. Additionally, in cases where a patient was not informed of the risks of a procedure and would have made a different decision with the relevant data, the patient may be able to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Medical malpractice law is complicated, and proving a lack of informed consent can be equally challenging. Victims of medical malpractice should get in touch with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to help them navigate informed consent, medical negligence, and personal injury law.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, contact the Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you build a case and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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