What is informed consent?

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

New York patients know that decisions concerning their health care are rightfully theirs to make. To accomplish this, a patient must be given adequate and clearly presented information. This allows for combined participation by the patient and his or her doctor. If the patient is incapable of understanding and participating in their care, his or her legal representative may give permission. Informed consent may not be required in emergencies.

Informed consent is a structured, thorough explanation of a patient’s health status and condition provided by a physician. It also offers information concerning possible treatment or procedures, the risks and probability of success that these might render, as well as other available options. The format may be written or verbal, and the patient must understand what is being said to them. It is the physician’s responsibility to ascertain that the patient comprehends this information. It is a patient’s right to accept or refuse the proposed care.

Informed consent must be obtained before surgery, radiation or chemotherapy is done. Certain blood tests such as that for HIV or endoscopy and needle biopsy also require informed consent. Vaccination for most diseases also requires that the patient is informed why it is done and what pros and cons exist.

A patient who undergoes some procedures may experience a bad outcome or side effects. This may cause complications that involve continuing medical care or cause the patient to be bedridden or absent from work. It could also be a life-threatening situation. Without properly obtained informed consent, there could be an issue of whether the health care provider breached the duty of care which could possibly be the basis of a medical malpractice claim.

Source: Medline Plus, “Informed consent – adults“, November 12, 2014

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