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Medical malpractice: what is informed consent?

While a person in Cook County generally knows what to expect at a routine doctor's appointment, when it comes to more complex procedures, a person can be left in the dark. However, understanding what will be done and why is important. After all, certain procedures can leave a person in a worsened condition if they are not performed with due care. Patients deserve to know what to expect -- what the medical procedure is, why it is needed and what risks, complications and alternatives are involved.

This is where informed consent comes into play. Through informed consent, the physician will provide the patient with information regarding the procedure the physician is recommending, including risks and benefits. This information must be sufficient for the patient to make a decision about whether he or she wants to go through with the procedure. Informed consent is founded on the premise that a person has the right to make his or her own health care decisions. Informed consent must be voluntary. In certain common procedures, such as an annual check-up, informed consent may be implied. However, for risky or invasive procedures, oftentimes informed consent must be given explicitly in writing.

There are certain conditions in which informed consent need not be obtained. One is in emergency situations where a person needs medical care right away, or else they will suffer from serious or irreversible harm. Another exception is if the patient is incompetent. In that situation, a family member or other individual in accordance with state law may provide informed consent on the patient's behalf.

If a physician fails to obtain informed consent from the patient, but performs a procedure on the patient anyway, this may be considered assault or battery, and it is illegal. Patients who feel they have been misled with regards to a medical procedure, have suffered harm due to it, and would otherwise not have undergone the procedure may want to consult with an attorney to see if they have a medical malpractice claim due to improper consent before a procedure.

Source: emedicinehealth.com, "Informed Consent," accessed March 27, 2017

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