Patients are very vulnerable when they require medical care. They do not understand what may have caused their symptoms nor the treatment options potentially available. They depend on the physician attending to them to reach an accurate diagnosis and then recommend the best course of treatment possible. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes rush through standard procedures during patient treatment.
Some doctors make erroneous assumptions about the underlying cause of an individual’s symptoms. Other times, physicians fail to choose the right treatment option for a patient, possibly because they prefer one method over others. Particularly when a doctor wants to recommend a drug that has numerous side effects or a treatment option with a high failure rate, they have an obligation to communicate with their patients.
Doctors should tell patients about the risks, side effects and success rate for their recommended course of treatment. When a doctor glosses over risks and alternative options instead of properly analyzing them with a patient, the patient could end up very confused when they experience a common negative outcome. In some cases, those patients may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim based on a physician’s failure to secure informed consent.
Signing a document isn’t enough
Many modern medical practices try to protect against malpractice claims by using boilerplate documents. For example, they have every patient sign informed consent documents before surgery. However, they simply require the patient to sign the document and do not actually provide them with crucial information about the recommended course of treatment.
When a patient doesn’t receive information about the risks and side effects associated with the treatment, they may assume that it is safer than it actually is. If they don’t know how frequently the procedure fails or requires revisions, they might agree to a treatment plan that requires numerous future corrections.
Doctors should always explain to patients when there are less invasive or more successful alternative treatments available. They should also ensure that patients are aware of side effects, contraindications, negative outcomes and failure rates for the suggested course of treatment.
When a patient undergoes an experimental surgery, for example, they should understand how many other people have had to redo treatment because the procedure failed and how many people have had poor outcomes. Doctors who fail to actually inform patients and obtain their informed consent before treating them may have violated best practices.
Establishing that a doctor did not secure informed consent could sometimes give a patient grounds to hold them accountable for a poor medical outcome. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to assess one’s particular circumstances and options accordingly.