Informed Consent and Unauthorized Treatment

An individual has the right to receive information (precise and accurate) about his own medical condition. Thus, a medical professional is obligated to provide him the data that he needs to access. The information must be in plain language that can be easily understood and must be comprehensive enough to allow the patient to make an “informed” decision about his or her healthcare.

What Is Informed Consent?

The doctors are mandated by law to abide by the informed consent doctrine for their patients. Thus, it is a legal obligation more than it is a moral one. State laws often take a patient-centric approach. Generally, the doctor or one of his or her representatives is required to discuss the patient’s diagnosis, the nature of the recommended treatment, any risks associated with the treatment, alternative forms of treatment, the risks associated with those alternatives, and the consequences of taking no action at all. If the patient was able to be informed or gain access to the information, the treatment that he will be given would be treated as treatment done with his consent. Most hospitals, doctor’s offices, and treatment centers require their patients to sign informed consent forms so that consent will be in writing.

Special Cases: Competency

A patient should be proven to be competent in order to be capable of having the informed consent. Generally, adults are presumed to be competent. However, the presumption can be challenged in cases of mental illness or other impairments. Thus, persons who are not yet of legal age, like minors, are presumed to be incompetent in getting such information. In such cases, the parent or guardian of the child must give consent on the minor’s behalf.

Unauthorized Treatment

A medical professional’s failure to abide by the rules of informed consent can lead to undesired consequences such as criminal and civil suits. In a civil suit, the patient will have to show two elements. First, the patient must show that the doctor performed the treatment or procedure without his or her informed consent. Secondly, it is also important that the patient is able to show that had he known of the possible detrimental effects, he would not have gone to the treatment.

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