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What does 'informed consent' entail?

Most of us don't have medical training, so we rely on our doctors to give us clear, complete, honest information about any condition we have. We also rely on them to explain all treatment options. We typically ask our doctors (or they just tell us) what treatment they would recommend. However, ultimately, the decision is ours to make.

That decision should be what's called "informed consent." Under the law, to have informed consent, patients must be given the following information in language they can understand:

  • Diagnosis of their medical condition
  • Information about treatment options, including alternative treatments
  • Risks of each treatment option
  • Prognosis with each treatment option and with no treatment

Often, patients are required to sign a form designating their consent to whatever they decide. That documents their informed consent. If a patient doesn't give informed consent, any non-emergency treatment they receive may be considered unauthorized. That could be considered not only a case of medical malpractice but potentially even a crime.

For a patient to claim that they received unauthorized treatment, they must show that:

  • The treatment was given without their informed consent.
  • If they'd known the risks, they wouldn't have given consent.
  • They were injured by the treatment.

A patient has to be considered competent to give informed consent. For example, a minor, simply because of their age, is typically not able to give informed consent. Their parent or guardian would need to. Adults who have dementia or some type of mental illness or impairment would also typically not be able to give informed consent.

If you or a loved one were injured or made ill by a treatment that was performed without informed consent, it's wise to talk with an experienced malpractice attorney as soon as possible. They can help you determine whether you have a case against your doctor or other medical professionals.

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