Medical professionals have gone through extensive schooling and training to provide them with the knowledge and experience to treat patients. However, patients still have the right to decide what happens to their bodies. Legally, doctors are required to get informed consent from their patients before they proceed with treatment. Informed consent is different from consent in that it requires more than just a ‘yes’ from the patient. Informed consent requires patients to have a certain level of understanding of the treatment before agreeing to it.
Implied consent is often assumed when it comes to physical exams and other less invasive procedures, but generally, explicit consent would be required for any invasive test or treatment. However, in emergency situations or in situations involving an incompetent patient (patient without capacity to make a decision), informed consent may not be required.
What is required for informed consent?
Pennsylvania physicians must provide patients the information that is necessary to make an informed decision about whether to consent to the surgery, procedure or treatment. Physicians often have a deeper understanding of medicine than their patients, so it is important that medical professionals provide information about the treatment in a way that patients can understand. Generally, the patient must be made aware of:
- The diagnosis
- The recommended course of treatment
- Benefits and risks of the procedure/not having the procedure
- Chances of benefits and risks occurring
- Other alternatives (and their risks/benefits)
As a patient, you have the right to make informed decisions about your health. If a physician performs a procedure or treatment on you without your consent and caused you harm, you can file a medical malpractice claim against them. You will need to establish that you would not have consented to the procedure had you received all the necessary information. If your claim is successful, you can recover damages for any additional medical costs or pain and suffering caused by a lack of informed consent.