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Lack of informed consent can constitute medical malpractice

Many medical procedures, such as surgeries or being given anesthesia, require that a patient sign a form that says he or she knows and accepts the potential risks of the procedure. This is known as informed consent. Our Washington, D.C., readers might be interested in learning more about what is included in the concept of informed consent.

The concept of informed consent is one that allows the patient to control what happens to his or her body. In order for the informed consent to be considered valid, the patient must be coherent and competent to make decisions. With that in mind, informed consent isn't always necessary. One example of this would be if a patient isn't conscious but needs emergency surgery to save his or her life.

In some cases, a patient's consent can be presumed, but this is typically only acceptable in emergency situations in which the patient is unable to sign informed consent forms. When a patient is unable to consent to procedures for themselves, the patient's next of kin or health care proxy would make or decline the consent.

If you think about what informed consent entails, you can see that it is a concept that empowers a patient to take control of their health care. When a medical professional takes the time to follow the ethical path and fully explain the reason for the procedure, the alternatives, the risks, the benefits and any other relevant information, the patient can then decide if he or she is willing to follow the suggested course of action. When that is taken away from them, a patient might end up suffering from a harm that he or she never would have consented to in the first place.

Source: University of Washington School of Medicine, "Ethics in Medicine: Informed Consent" Jessica De Bord, DDS, MSD, MA (Bioethics), accessed Mar. 18, 2015

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