Patients have a general right to make their own medical decisions. As modern medicine is more complicated than ever, doctors and health providers have a proactive responsibility to ensure that patients are reasonably informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatment plans. This is known as the principle of “informed consent.”
As defined by the American Medical Association (AMA), informed consent is the “right to receive information and ask questions about recommended treatments so that they can make well-considered decisions about care.” Here, our Albany medical malpractice attorneys provide an overview of the four key elements of informed consent.
Medical Treatment: Four Major Elements of Informed Consent
- Full Disclosure of Material Information
Informed consent starts with disclosure. Doctors and health providers have a professional responsibility to provide full and accurate information to a patient. To give informed consent, you must be “informed.” All of the risks and benefits of a proposed course of action—surgery, operation, treatment plan, etc—should be clearly explained to the patient. As noted previously, a key principle of informed consent is that patients have a right to ask questions about the proposed treatment.
- Comprehension of the Risks and Benefits of a Proposed Course of Action
Informed consent also requires genuine patient comprehension of the risks and benefits of a proposed treatment plan. Imagine that a doctor recommends surgery on your shoulder. In doing so, the doctor hands you a large packet of extraordinarily technical, dense information about the procedure. By itself, that is not likely not good enough for informed consent. If the patient cannot reasonably comprehend the information, they are not in a position to give informed consent.
- Legally Competent Patient (or Surrogate Decision-Maker)
Patient competence is another key principle of informed consent. In some cases, elderly or vulnerable patients may not be in a position to understand the benefits and risks of a proposed medical intervention. A person who lacks legal competence cannot give informed consent. That being said, if they have a surrogate decision-maker in place, a competent decision-maker can give informed consent on their behalf.
- A Fully Voluntary Decision By the Patient
Finally, informed consent can only be given voluntarily. A patient who is strongly pressured into agreeing to a particular treatment option by a doctor may not have given their informed consent. As noted by the American Medical Association (AMA), patient autonomy is one of the core underlying principles of informed consent. A decision that is not true “voluntary” may not meet the standards of informed consent.
Lack Of Informed Consent Could Warrant A Malpractice Claim
You may be wondering: What happens if a doctor fails to obtain informed consent? The answer depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Failure to get informed consent from a patient could result in a medical professional facing a malpractice claim. Here are four things you would need to establish to bring a successful claim on these grounds:
- A medical provider failed to provide full and accurate information regarding a medical procedure/medical treatment or otherwise failed to obtain your consent;
- An ordinary medical provider under similar circumstances would have obtained informed consent;
- You would have likely opted for another course of treatment if you had been given informed consent; and
- You suffered actual harm as a consequence of the doctor/health provider’s failure to get informed consent.
The Bottom Line: As a patient, you have a right to informed consent. If you were denied your opportunity to provide consent and you suffered harm as a result, you may be entitled to financial compensation. An experienced New York medical malpractice attorney will protect your rights.
Call Our Albany, NY Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our New York medical malpractice attorneys are standing by, ready to help you and your family get justice and financial support. If you have questions about informed consent, we are here to help. Contact us today for a free review of your case. With offices in Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester, we represent medical negligence victims throughout the region, including in Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Utica, Auburn, Cicero, Rome, and Herkimer.