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What is informed consent?

Doctors in Illinois are required to present patients with a clear description of their medical condition as well as treatment options. Failing to do so could be construed as negligence. Health care professionals cannot simply give patients the treatments they think are best under most circumstances. Patients must agree to receive treatment after going over their choices. This is known as informed consent.

Informed consent could be verbal or written, but certain procedures require patient authorization on a written form. Surgical operations and complex tests or procedures usually require consent in writing. An example of a complex or advanced medical test that would require written consent is a liver biopsy performed with a needle. Some blood tests and the majority of vaccinations also need patients to given written consent. This is also true of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer.

Either way, for informed consent to be valid, people must be informed of their choices and understand them before making a decision. It is not enough for doctors to merely name a type of treatment. Patients must fully understand what they are agreeing to as well the risks associated with the treatment and their likelihood of occurrence. Potential complications and side effects that might develop in the future must be explained as well. A health care professional should give reasons for recommending the treatment and state its chances of success. Whether the treatment could be given later is also important information for someone to have before giving informed consent.

A patient who does not think the doctor provided all the information needed to give informed consent or who was given treatment against his or her wishes might have a case for medical malpractice if an injury resulted. An attorney could review the details of the case and recommend a course of action, which could include filing a claim for medical malpractice to obtain fair compensation.

Source: Medline Plus, "Informed consent - adults", October 30, 2014

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FAQ Medical Malpractice

Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Malpractice

Q: What is medical malpractice?

A: Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital, whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient...

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