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Was your consent to a medical procedure truly informed?

All medical procedures have risks. When a physician completes his or her duties to an acceptable standard of care, he or she will not bear legal responsibility for harm that arose due to a known risk of a procedure.

However, breaching the standard of care can be subtle. It is not always something as bombastic as nicking an artery during surgery, or grossly misdiagnosing a serious condition. Sometimes medical malpractice is simply a matter of providing too little information.

In order to perform a procedure on you, a doctor must obtain your consent. This is not simply a matter of getting a “yes” or “no.” In the medical context, things are complicated. When a layperson hears the name of a procedure, he or she is not going to immediately have a full understanding of what it could entail. In order for the patient’s consent to truly be voluntary, he or she must be provided with a certain level of information.

At a minimum, informed consent usually means there must be a discussion before the procedure that includes these elements:

• The procedure’s nature

• Potentially viable alternatives to the proposed procedure

• Possible risks, benefits and uncertainties of the proposed procedure and each alternative

• An evaluation of patient understanding to ensure the patient comprehended what was discussed

• Acquiescence by the patient to undergo the procedure

Many times, patients do not realize they did not give informed consent until after the procedure has taken place. If you underwent a medical procedure, the results were unfavorable and you felt like you would not have consented to the procedure if you had known your present circumstances could be the result, you may have been a victim of medical malpractice. Obtaining informed consent is a critical component of any medical procedure, and if your doctor failed to obtain yours, you may have a legal claim.