We expect our doctors to treat us with respect, and that is why the law protects us from medical providers that fail to disclose the truth about a procedure or treatment.
Almost all medical therapies carry some risk—from minor pain up to loss of life—and as the recipient of the therapy, patients are legally entitled to know all of the associated risks.
That is why the law requires doctors to obtain informed consent from a patient prior to administering a treatment. This involves signing a consent form but should also include a discussion with the patient that allows them to ask questions. If a medical provider does not obtain informed consent from a patient, then they may be able to sue the provider for medical malpractice.
From our team of medical malpractice attorneys at the Gilbert Law Firm, based in Spokane, Washington, here’s what you need to know about informed consent.
The Basics of Informed Consent
At its core, informed consent is about providing enough information to the patient so that they can accurately weigh the risks against the benefits of a potential therapy.
As such, the doctor is not required to disclose every possible outcome – just the most important ones.
Under Washington state law, important risks should include the best and worst outcomes, as well as a “realistic description of the most likely outcome.” This must be based on the physician’s knowledge of the treatment in conjunction with the patient’s current health condition.
Informed consent must be obtained prior to any major therapy or procedure. This does not apply to emergency medical situations, in which the patient may not possess the state of mind capable of providing informed consent or there isn’t time due to potential serious harm or loss of life.
The patient should be mentally capable of understanding the risks and benefits associated with a pending therapy or procedure. This may exclude minors and people with serious cognitive impediments, so their legal guardians may need to provide consent in their place.
Proceeding without Informed Consent
As the patient, you have the right to refuse any treatment. If you do not give your informed consent and the physician proceeds with the treatment, then the physician may be legally convicted of battery.
Even if the criminal justice system does not find evidence for a criminal charge, you may still have a case for a civil offense like gross negligence.
In order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice suit based on unauthorized treatment, your case must meet two requirements:
- You must prove that the doctor performed the therapy without informed consent; and
- You must show that you would not have elected to have the therapy if you had been properly informed.
There are many situations in which an unauthorized treatment occurs.
- For example, if the medical provider mistakenly performs the wrong procedure. (However, this legal basis would not apply if a surgeon discovered a serious health issue and corrected it in the midst of another procedure.)
- There may also be certain situations in which a physician did not disclose all of the risks of a treatment despite their seriousness in an effort to provide beneficial treatment. For example, a physician may not explicitly disclose all of the risks of a potentially lifesaving therapy to a terminal patient. In such cases, the physician must explain why they chose not to explain all of the risks.
Get the Legal Help You Need for Your Washington Medical Malpractice Suit
The Gilbert Law Firm has been helping Spokane families get the compensation they deserve in medical malpractice cases for decades. If you have a medical malpractice case, we have the personal injury lawyers to help it succeed. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and talk about your case.
Disclaimer: The blog published by the Gilbert Law Firm marketing team for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. Readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.