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Is informed consent a defense to medical malpractice?

"Informed consent" is a process that physicians use to see that patients are properly informed about medical procedures that the physician intends to use. In particular, informed consent refers to the act of the physician engaging in a dialog with the patient, as well as to the consent form that the patient signs indicating that he or she has been fully informed before the procedure is undertaken.

Although the purposes of informed consent have been to reduce the risk of medical errors, to set realistic patient expectations and to improve patient satisfaction, perhaps the most important reason for their use is their intended value in reducing the possibility of medical malpractice claims. In this sense, informed consent may be used in a way similar to an indemnification or a waiver of liability.

But is informed consent completely effective as a means of informing patients of the risks they may face when undergoing medical treatment? That answer depends heavily on the circumstances. For example, not all doctors may take the time to fully explain procedures and risks to patients, and others may try to do so using terms that the patient cannot completely understand.

In the context of medical malpractice, even if the patient has signed an informed consent document, that may not immunize the physician from the consequences of making a medical error. If the patient failed to understand the information that was given, and the doctor failed to ensure that the patient did indeed understand that information, then the effectiveness of informed consent is a malpractice defense becomes questionable.

A law firm experienced in trying medical malpractice cases can help you to properly evaluate the impact, if any, of either a lack of informed consent or an informed consent document that you may have signed but not fully understood before undergoing a medical procedure in which you were harmed.

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