A medical professional is not supposed to perform any medical procedure, prescribe any medication, or administer any other treatment without the informed consent of a patient or their legal representative. Doing otherwise may not only be unethical, but also illegal, and can risk major harm to the patient. But what is informed consent and why is it such an important part of medical practice?
Put simply, informed consent is when a medical patient gives consent to a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional to perform a medical procedure or administer a treatment based on an informed understanding of the potential benefits and risks of that treatment or procedure. In other words, for consent to be “informed,” the medical professional must first tell the patient (or, if the patient is unable to consent, their legal representative) about both the potential benefits of the procedure or treatment, as well as the "known risks" or downsides that may accompany it. In the case of experimental treatments or procedures, their experimental nature should be made clear, as should the fact that their benefits or downsides are not necessarily predictable.
The purpose of informed consent is to ensure that a patient understands the full ramifications of the treatments they receive from medical procedures, thus allowing them to prepare for any possible unpleasant outcomes. When a medical professional either fails to disclose the possible risks associated with a treatment or procedure, or isn’t entirely forthright about potential side effects, it can lead patients to make decisions that they wouldn’t if they were properly informed. Not only is this a betrayal of trust, but it can have serious medical and financial ramifications to the patient.
There are a few exceptions to this general rule. The most common exception is that a medical professional, such as a surgeon, does not need to obtain informed consent for emergency procedures needed to save someone whose life is in imminent danger. (For example, a surgery for someone suffering from a heart attack or stroke.) Second, if a patient is incapacitated and there is no legal representative to consent on their behalf, a medical professional may administer treatments as they deem are necessary. Third, a patient can knowingly waive their right to informed consent under some circumstances.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Georgaklis & Mallas, PLLC are experienced in representing clients who have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice, including harm caused by a failure to obtain informed consent. The firm’s accomplished medical malpractice lawyers strive to secure full and fair compensation for their injured clients. With law offices conveniently located in Brooklyn and Manhattan, their medical malpractice lawyers can vigorously represent clients throughout the metropolitan area, including, in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens, and New Jersey. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please call (718) 238-2400 or fill out our contact form.