One of the most important rules governing the behavior of healthcare professionals is the idea of informed consent. Informed consent is the requirement that doctors and other medical professionals must inform patients about the risks and benefits associated with treatment, as well as alternatives to that treatment, including taking no action at all. For instance, a doctor must inform patients about serious side effects resulting from a new prescription. The failure to do so can create liability, because the patient does not have the required information to make an informed decision. On the other hand, the doctor must also provide a complete analysis of the benefits and risks associated with other treatment options or doing nothing at all.
In Washington State, informed consent medical malpractice lawsuits are governed by RCW 7.70.050. The law says that several elements of proof are required to prove a physician or other healthcare professional is liable. First, the healthcare provider must have failed to inform the patient of a material fact or facts relating to the treatment. Second, the patient must have consented to the treatment without being aware of or fully informed of those facts. Third, a reasonably prudent patient under similar circumstances would not have consented to the treatment if informed of the facts. Lastly, medical malpractice attorneys must prove that the treatment in question caused injury to the patient.
There are a couple different kinds of informed consent cases.
In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a medication without fully informing the patient of the risks and side effects associated with it. In the most extreme cases, a patient may be seriously injured or even die as a result of predictable side effects. If a reasonably informed patient would have declined the medication, then the healthcare provider may be liable.
Every medical procedure carries risks. In some cases, a doctor may suggest a surgery is required, but fail to disclose the dangers associated with that surgery. If that is the case, the doctor may be liable for damages.
In some cases, a doctor may suggest one treatment option, when there are other, less risky options available. For instance, if a doctor only suggests surgery when there is a potential medication that could make the patient better, the patient has not been fully informed about the benefits and risks of the treatment.
What Can Hurt Your Case?
A couple factors may hurt your ability to provide liability in an informed consent medical malpractice lawsuit. First, if there is a medical emergency and the patient is unconscious, informed consent may not be necessary because the patient’s life is at stake. Secondly, if the facts the doctor failed to disclose would not have dissuaded a typical patient from receiving the suggested treatment, it may be difficult to prove liability.