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What Is Informed Consent for Medical Treatment?

What Is Informed Consent for Medical Treatment? - Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm, PLLC

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If you think you have been injured due to a doctor’s negligence, you might have jumped on the internet and started seeing the phrase “informed consent.” Some people may not be familiar with what this phrase means or the impact it could have on their case.

In a medical setting, informed consent means that doctors have a duty to tell their patients about any risks involved in a course of treatment or medical procedure. When a doctor fails to inform the patient about risks, and the patient suffers harm, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.

What Does Informed Consent Mean?

Few, if any, medical treatments or surgical procedures are entirely risk-free. Even something as routine as receiving a flu shot carries small but real risks, such as a bad reaction or an infection at the injection site. If you’ve had a procedure performed or you’ve received any kind of medical treatment, you may have received paperwork that explains the potential risks involved.

Whether a risk is large or negligible, doctors have an obligation to tell their patients the risks before undertaking any kind of treatment or procedure. Patients have a right to know the risks of any procedure to help them make educated decisions about their health care.

In many cases, doctors and hospitals may even require patients to sign paperwork stating they have been informed of the risks and have been given an opportunity to ask questions. Just because a patient signs a form, however, doesn’t necessarily mean they have given their consent. Doctors must actually talk to their patients about the risks, in addition to taking time to answer any questions a patient has about their procedure.

What Risks Are Doctors Required to Disclose?

Doctors are required by law to discuss certain types of risks with patients. The law has specific standards when it comes to determining what’s required for disclosure. When courts look at these types of cases, they consider two things: would other doctors in the same field have deemed the risks worthy of disclosure, and would the average, reasonable patient have opted for another type of procedure or treatment if they knew the risks?

First, courts consider what another doctor in the same specialty would have done under similar circumstances. If another doctor would have disclosed the risks, the courts will find that disclosure was necessary. This is an important consideration, as it’s impossible for doctors to discuss every unique thing that could possibly go wrong during a surgery or treatment

For example, a city in which a hospital is located could potentially lose power, cutting off electricity and preventing pieces of lifesaving medical equipment from working. However, there is a very small risk of this happening, and it’s not an event that usually merits disclosure. On the other hand, addressing a patient’s risk of a blood clot or anesthesia reaction is much more likely, and would be the type of risk the majority of doctors would disclose.

Additionally, courts look at whether a patient would have opted for a different procedure or treatment if they were fully informed of all the risks.

When Informed Consent Is Not Required

In certain emergency situations, a doctor may not have time to first obtain a patient’s consent before conducting a medical procedure or providing treatment. For example, if an ambulance brings an unconscious car accident victim to an emergency room, and the medical staff can’t get in touch with the patient’s family right away, the doctors working there won’t have an opportunity to obtain the patient’s consent before providing life-saving care.  

According to the American Medical Association, doctors have an obligation to obtain informed consent as soon as they can following life-saving emergency treatment and before they continue their care. “In such situations, the physician should inform the patient or surrogate at the earliest opportunity and obtain consent for ongoing treatment in keeping with these guidelines.”

Other Issues with Informed Consent

In some cases, a patient may be able to file a medical malpractice claim for a breach of informed consent in the event a doctor operates on the wrong part of the body.

For example, if the patient gives informed consent for the doctor to operate on the patient’s right arm, but the doctor mistakenly operates on the left arm. The informed consent would have only applied to the patient’s right arm, which as a result could result in a medical malpractice claim for a lack of informed consent, among other legal theories. A patient may not have a claim for informed consent, however, in cases where the surgery or treatment was necessary and didn’t result in any harm.

If you were injured as the result of a medical procedure or treatment and were not made aware of the possible risks, you should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer at Jonathan C. Reiter Law Firm as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation for damages. Trust your case in the hands of the best medical malpractice attorney in New York City. Call NYC Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter at (212) 736-0979 today.

New York Medical Malpractice Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter

(T): 212-736-0979




Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.

Jonathan C. Reiter NYC Injury Lawyer

New York City Personal Injury Lawyer / Aviation Accident Attorney