Modern medicine evaluates procedures based on how easily repeatable the results are and how many risks a patient must endure to secure the benefits of a treatment plan, drug or procedure. Until there is a compelling body of evidence about the safety or efficacy of different medical treatments, medical professionals should consider them research or experimental procedures.
There are some individuals who are perfect candidates for treatments that are not yet mainstream. Their doctors may recommend a procedure, and patients may jump at the opportunity to recover from their injury or illness. However, if the doctor didn’t talk about the risks honestly and in-depth, the patient may not have been capable of providing informed consent.
What is informed consent?
To verify that someone has provided informed consent, the situation needs to meet certain criteria. Typically, the patient needs to be an adult and needs to have the mental capacity to make legally-binding decisions for themselves.
Someone already struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease cannot decide on their own account to undergo an experimental treatment for the condition. A teenager who doesn’t yet have the mental ability to think about long-term consequences can’t make a rational decision about a medical treatment with life-altering consequences.
The individual providing informed consent needs to really understand the risks and benefits. Their doctor simply telling them that complications are rare is not adequate. A patient should know exactly what complications may arise and what percentage of treatments or procedures have resulted in those negative outcomes.
Misleading patients can be a form of medical malpractice
Doctors sometimes rush patients through the informed consent process and even have them sign forms when they don’t understand the possible consequences of the procedure or treatment they will undergo. Some doctors become so excited at the possibility of performing a cutting-edge procedure or referring out a patient to a famous specialist that they don’t truly put the patient’s needs first.
Every doctor should do their best to provide patients or those making medical decisions for their patients with accurate information about the risks and possible complications involved in different treatments, especially experimental or research procedures. Those who have suffered poor outcomes without realizing those outcomes were possible may be in an actionable position.
Holding a doctor accountable for failing to secure informed consent might lead to a medical malpractice claim.