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What is informed consent?

If you are sick or injured, receiving top-notch medical care is important for your recovery. Most people in San Diego who are under the care of a physician want to understand their treatment options and how these options can help them get better. To do so, however, patients need to have informed consent with regard to their health care.

What is informed consent? It is the legal information physicians must provide to their patients. Under informed consent, doctors and other health care professionals are legally obligated to give patients the information they need to knowingly authorize a medical procedure. This includes both the purpose and the nature of the treatment. It also includes informing the patient if there are any risks posed by the proposed medical procedure and informing the patient of other available treatment options.

Doctors should make such disclosures to their patients directly. Although they may try to obtain informed consent through a paper form, this does not give the patient the specific information they need that is particular to their case. Patients should learn directly from their attending physician about the information they need to make a decision regarding their health care options.

Unfortunately, not all patients receive informed consent prior to undergoing medical treatment. This is an especially serious situation when something goes wrong. Should a doctor make a medical mistake, it could prolong the patient's suffering or make their condition worse. When this happens, patients may wind up incurring significantly higher medical costs than they would have if the mistake had not been made. In addition, without informed consent, patients may end up undergoing medical treatment they otherwise would not have agreed to if they had had full knowledge of the treatment.

Patients who suffer from a medical provider's mistake should not have to incur the additional stress of costly medical bills that should not have been necessary in the first place. When this happens, patients may want to consider their legal options, including the possibility of pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: Western Journal of Medicine, "Informed Consent in California," Accessed Jan. 11, 2015

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