Informed consent occurs when a patient understands a medical procedure, including its purposes, the risks and possible complications involved, and what alternatives are available, including what alternative treatments are available and what might happen if the patient decides to do nothing at all. Informed consent in Nebraska is important because a patient cannot decide whether or not to agree to risk if they do not know it exists.
Providing the information a patient needs to give informed consent is part of meeting the standard of care, which is the responsibility every physician has to each patient. A physician or medical team that doesn't ensure a patient gives informed consent may be committing negligence, especially if a risk occurs that, if the patient had known about it, they might not have agreed to undergo the procedure.
What is Informed Consent?
The American Medical Association states that informed consent goes far beyond merely signing a consent form. Instead, the AMA defines informed consent as "a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient's authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention." In order to complete this process in a way that protects both the patient and the physician, the AMA recommends that physicians include the following information in their discussions with the patient:
- The patient's diagnosis, if known, or the diagnosis the physician wants to confirm or rule out by doing a particular procedure
- The purpose of the procedure
- The risks and benefits of the procedure
- Any alternatives, regardless of whether or not they are covered by the patient's insurance, and the risks and benefits of choosing them over the proposed procedure
- Answers to any of the patient's questions.
A patient who knows what their options are, including what might happen if they choose "none of the above," is in a far better position to make informed decisions about their own medical care than a patient who has never had anyone explain what is going on.
Restitution for Informed Consent Cases
The American Medical Association states that informed consent goes far beyond merely signing a consent form.
The earliest legal cases involving informed consent were based on the tort law of battery. The theory in those cases was that a patient who did not know what a physician planned to do could not possibly consent to the treatment and that therefore doing it made the physician liable for an unwanted touching (the definition of "battery" in those cases). Today, however, informed consent has more to do with negligence. A physician or hospital that does not get informed consent from the patient is not living up to the standard of care, and may, therefore, be liable for any injuries the patient suffers as a result, including injuries caused by the patient's failure to understand the procedure and their responsibilities before or after the procedure occurs.
Discovering you have an injury or illness after undergoing a medical procedure like surgery and not knowing what happened can be terrifying. If you've suffered a medical injury in Nebraska and you believe you weren't informed of the risks, please don't hesitate to contact the experienced Nebraska medical malpractice attorneys at Cullan & Cullan LLC. We can help you hold negligent parties responsible so that you can obtain the compensation you need to move on with your life. Contact us today at (402) 882-7080 to learn more about your legal rights.