Consent is important when it comes to medical situations where there is inherent risk.
For example, if you need a surgical procedure, a risky form of treatment, or other procedure.
Sometimes written consent is required from the patient (or next of kin for children).
Informed consent recognises that there is a lot that the individual has to understand in some cases.
If a patient doesn’t consent to something where they should have had the option and something goes wrong, they may be entitled to make a negligence claim if the outcome is not as expected.
As medical negligence solicitors serving London, we know that the issues surrounding consent are complicated.
It’s important to understand how and why you were negatively affected, and whether the issue of consent had a bearing. Here’s what you need to know.
Let’s say you require a strong course of treatment for your medical condition. For example, a course of chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, which both carry their own risks.
At the early stage, it is unlikely you have more than a vague idea of how the process will work and what is involved. You need to know the impact of the treatment.
That is, the impact on your health, your ability to live life normally, and the effect that it may have on your immediate family.
Informed consent implies you’ve received and understood a full breakdown of the implications.
You need to understand both benefits and risks involved and what happens should something go awry.
You need to understand these possibilities weighed up against the benefits and risks of alternative treatments, and of doing nothing.
Any questions you have, make sure you have thought about what you want to know. Ask anything you want, even if you think it’s silly. You need to feel reassured ahead of any program of treatment.
You must be given ample time to talk to your family and anyone else you might need advice from.
The decision you make, that is to go ahead with what is proposed, decline, or make a choice (if multiple treatment options are on the table), should then be fully informed.
Then, you can relay this to your doctor and proceed as necessary.
Usually you’ll need to sign a consent form, a legal document that gives explicit consent for the medical doctor/team to proceed.
This form includes the details involved in your treatment plan and some sort of declaration to say that you’ve understood all the implications.
Note that the signing of a consent form does not qualify as informed consent in and of itself, but is a declaration to say that you have the necessary information to make an informed decision.
Should you wish to decline the recommended course of action, you may have to sign another form called an informed refusal form.
What Does this Mean to your Doctor?
Doctors have a duty of care for their patients and this naturally extends to ensuring their patients are always informed of what’s going on.
As above, this means a full understanding of reasons, benefits, risks, alternatives and anything else relating to treatment options.
Even small procedures may require you to sign a consent form depending on the context.
Where a patient does not have the sufficient mental capacity to make an informed decision, or is underage, the next of kin will be the person to make the final decisions after discussions with the doctor.
The same standards apply in this situation.
Negligence and Consent
The steps involved in giving informed consent are there to protect both the patient and the medical staff. Both parties have a role to play in ensuring the best outcomes.
Where a patient is negatively affected as a result of a flawed consent process, they may be able to make a negligence claim.
For example, if the risks aren’t fully explained and one such risk falls upon the patient, they may be entitled to compensation if it can be demonstrated that the situation was avoidable.
This is why documentation such as consent forms are so important, so that there is a written track record of everything that goes on between patient and doctor.
Negligence can occur where a patient is given treatment or a procedure that they hadn’t been told was an option in the first place.
Then, if this negatively affects their health or recovery, the doctor or medical team who went ahead with the treatment may be liable.
Read more about another medical negligence phenomenon documented by the Daily Mail: do not resuscitate orders ‘being imposed without consent of families’ – worth a read.
Consent is a situation that has to be thorough and rigorous, so that no one is put at any unnecessary risk.
Negligence cases relating to consent are tricky but that’s where professional negligence solicitors come in.
If you think you may have been a victim of negligence relating to your consent for treatment, give us a call today to discuss your options.