Almost all medical treatment comes with some degree of risk. Even the safest drugs, like antibiotics, provoke severe allergic reactions in a minority of patients. Therefore, it is crucial that patients understand the risks inherent in any treatment for which they give consent.
Medical professionals have a duty to their patients to do no harm. They are also bound to help ensure that their patients know enough to make appropriate decisions about the healthcare that they receive. Unfortunately, many doctors fall quite short of this standard.
They rush through their recommendations without really explaining the situation to a patient. They may even make biased decisions because their practice profits from surgical intervention, for example. Many patients undergo radical medical care without giving truly informed consent, which might later give rise to grounds upon which they can file a malpractice claim.
The standard for informed consent involves a patient recognizing the adverse consequences of treatment, the possible side effects and the success or failure rate for treatment. If a surgical procedure is only effective 60% of the time, for example, that relatively high failure rate might lead a patient to seek a second opinion or alternative treatment options if they are aware of it before making their choice.
Sadly, instead of actually educating their patients, many doctors just have them sign an informed consent form. They hand patients a confusing printout or pamphlet, rather than actually educating their patients about their recommendations and the risks involved.
Ideally, doctors should do their best to make sure that patients understand the potential consequences of any medical treatment. However, there are some times when informed consent is absolutely necessary.
These situations include any kind of experimental treatment and any intensive or high-risk interventions, like surgery. Only when patients understand the likelihood that treatment will succeed and the potential risks to their health can they make informed decisions about the kind of care they will choose to undergo at a medical facility.
Those who have an adverse reaction to treatment that they didn’t know was possible may potentially have grounds for a claim against the physician who provided their care and did not properly secure informed consent prior to initiating treatment. Discussing situations that may constitute medical malpractice with legal professionals can help those who have been harmed by inappropriate medical treatment.