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What is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is a term that you hear often in the medical community. It is something that doctors use as a way to explain to patients the risks associated with taking a certain medication or having a medical procedure. A patient gives informed consent when the risks of the procedure are explained to the patient and the patient chooses to proceed with the medical treatment after considering all of the potential risks. In other words, the patient has acknowledged that there are risks associated with this procedure or with this drug and the patient has voluntarily agreed to proceed even though a bad result may occur.

Defining Informed Consent

Informed consent is both a legal and ethical right for a patient to control what happens to his or her body. It is also relates to the ethical duty that a physician has to include his or her patient in the decisions made about his or her healthcare. When defining informed consent in its simplest form, it is the process that a medical provider takes to explain to the patient all of the risks or possible outcomes that are associated with the procedure so that the patient can make a voluntary decision whether he or she wants to proceed with the treatment.

In order to give informed consent, the patient must be considered competent to understand the information being provided to him or to her and to make an informed decision based upon that information. Informed consent should also be voluntary on the part of the patient and should be viewed as the patient actively participating in his or her care. It should not be simply having a patient sign a form that authorizes the physician to proceed with a treatment that has inherent dangers but that the physician is telling the patient he or she must have in the physician’s medical opinion.

For informed consent to be complete, it should have a discussion of the following elements:

  • A discussion of the procedure involved and the decision that must be made;
  • Discussing any alternatives that may be reasonable for the proposed treatment;
  • The doctor must include an explanation of the benefits and the risks related to the proposed medical procedure and each alternative;
  • The patient must understand what is being explained to him or to her; and,
  • An informed acceptance of the patient allowing the medical provider to proceed with one specific course of action.
Medical Malpractice Claims Based on the Lack of Informed Consent

One of the elements of medical malpractice is a lack of informed consent. If your medical provider fails to provide you with adequate information for you to provide informed consent, he may be guilty of medical malpractice. Likewise, if a doctor performs a procedure without the informed consent of his patient, he has committed medical malpractice.