Is informed consent a defense to medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2015 | Doctor Errors

“Informed consent” refers to the process that physicians use, or are at least supposed to use, to see to it that patients are properly informed about a medical treatment or procedure that a physician intends to use on them.

More specifically, informed consent refers to the act of the physician engaging in a dialog with the patient as well as to the form that a patient signs indicating that he or she has been fully informed before the procedure is undertaken.

Although the purposes of informed consent have been described in terms of decreasing the risk of medical errors, setting realistic patient expectations and improving patient satisfaction, perhaps the most important reason for their use is their intended value in reducing the possibility of medical malpractice claims.

In this sense, an informed consent document may be used in a way similar to an indemnification or a waiver of liability.

The question remains, however, as to whether informed consent is completely effective as a means of informing patients of the risks they may face when undergoing medical treatment.

Not all doctors may take the time to fully explain procedures and risks to patients, while others may attempt to do so using terminology that patients cannot completely comprehend.

Several studies have concluded that a majority of patients either do not understand or cannot remember the information they received during the informed consent process.

In the context of medical malpractice, even a signed informed consent document may not necessarily protect the physician from the consequences of making a medical error, even if he or she allegedly attempted in advance to discuss with the patient the risks of that error.

If the patient failed to understand the information that was given, and the doctor failed to ensure that the patient in fact did understand the information, then the effectiveness of informed consent as a malpractice defense is degraded.

A law firm experienced in trying medical malpractice cases in South Carolina can help you to properly evaluate the impact, if any, of either a lack of informed consent or an informed consent document that you may have signed without proper explanation before undergoing a medical procedure in which you were harmed.


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