What is informed consent?
Except in the case of emergencies, a physician owes a duty to a patient to obtain the informed consent of the patient prior to performing surgery, administering anesthesia, administering chemotherapy or radiation, giving a blood transfusion, inserting an implantable medical device, or prior to administering an experimental medication, treatment, or device.
A patient’s consent to receive certain medical treatment or surgery is considered “informed” when the patient has been given by the doctor a full description of the procedure he/she is about to receive, an explanation of the risks and benefits to undergoing that procedure, and an explanation of possible alternative treatments, if any are available. Usually, your doctor will discuss a proposed procedure with you, the patient, during an office visit or in the hospital setting. During that discussion, your doctor will describe the procedure he/she is going to perform, how it will benefit you, what the risks of performing this procedure are, and the alternative remedies that may be available to you should you chose to forego treatment. After this discussion takes place, the doctor, or possibly a nurse or other healthcare professional, will ask you to sign a piece of paper indicating that you have been given all pertinent information regarding the procedure that is about to be performed on you, you understand the information, and you chose to either move forward with the procedure or forego treatment.
If, for any reason, you do not understand what type of procedure a doctor wishes to perform, or if you do not understand how a treatment or medication will benefit you, please speak up and ask the doctor to explain things to you a second time. It is your right as a patient to ask as many questions of your doctor as you feel necessary. Your doctor wants you to be comfortable with any and all decisions you make about the health care you receive, and gaining your informed consent to certain medical treatment is one step towards achieving this goal.
A doctor may be liable to you for money damages in a court of law if he/she fails to obtain your informed consent prior to performing a procedure on you. A doctor may be liable to his/her patient for money damages in a court of law if he/she does not obtain informed consent or if that doctor misrepresents to the patient his/her professional credentials, training or experience. As always, if you feel as though a physician did not obtain your informed consent to certain medical treatment, please call a qualified attorney or attorney referral service immediately so that you can discuss how to protect your legal rights.
For more information on the issue of informed consent, please consult:
40 P.S. §1303.504 (statute)
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/conducting/informed-consent-guide/page1