Healthcare practitioners need a patient’s permission for most medical procedures. This is especially true when it comes to invasive procedures like surgeries. Barring an emergency medical situation, you have the right to understand the risks involved in all your medical treatments and use that understanding to make decisions regarding how to proceed.
In the event your doctor acts negligently and violates your patient consent rights, you may suffer from bodily harm, emotional trauma, or unplanned financial burdens. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you have the right to pursue legal action and file a medical malpractice claim. In order to do so, you may benefit from understanding what patient consent is and how it works.
Understanding Patient Consent
When giving your consent for medical treatments or procedures, you’re informing your healthcare provider that you fully understand what you’ll undergo and what the possible complications are. There are two different types of consent: express and implied.
Express consent is given when a patient clearly and directly communicates their permission, like when a medical waiver or other papers are signed. Express consent can also be conveyed verbally; however, that is generally for simple procedures. Complex procedures, treatments, or examinations often require written consent as they are more likely involve potential risks.
If a patient, for example, is undergoing surgery, it’s likely a doctor or nurse will present the patient with a detailed explanation of what will happen during the surgery, as well as a list of potential complications that could occur. The patient will have to verify they understand what they’ve been told and sign a form agreeing to undergo the procedure with the knowledge of the possible risks.
Implied consent is generally relayed through actions and may be assumed depending on the circumstances. This can be more difficult to prove in a legal context.
Examples of implied consent include nodding, rolling up a sleeve to have a blood sample taken or receive a vaccination, or following instructions from your doctor the night before surgery.
In the event of a surgery, the patient may also be asked to sign a waiver giving the doctor permission to do any other necessary procedures that may not have been planned prior to the operation. This is considered implied consent.
Patient Consent and Pennsylvania Legislation
States are allowed to set their own informed consent laws to ensure patients receive the medical care they deserve. In Pennsylvania, there are certain procedures for which expressed consent, in the form of a signed document, must be obtained prior to them happening. Those procedures include:
- Receiving surgery, including surgeries that involve the administration of anesthesia
- Undergoing radiation or chemotherapy
- Receiving a blood transfusion
- Having a surgical device or other appliance implanted or inserted
- Receiving experimental medications, devices, or other treatments
As a general guideline, individuals receiving medical care in Pennsylvania should sign a consent form when the treatment they are to receive involves risks that are severe or frequently occur.
According to Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction Error Act, consent is only considered informed if the patient has been given a description of the procedure, the risks, and the alternatives to the procedure to ensure they make the best decision for themselves. The act also states that physicians may treat a patient without official consent in the event of a medical emergency.
Types of Patient Consent Violations
There are a variety of ways a doctor can violate a patient’s consent. In some instances, the doctor may operate on the wrong body part or perform additional procedures than what the patient had originally agreed to. A patient may also file a medical malpractice claim if they experienced complications and side effects not listed on their consent form or if their complications were far worse than they were told they would be.
For legal purposes, patient consent violations generally fall into two categories:
- Failure to Identify. A patient should be fully aware of the possible complications that could arise before, during, and after their procedure. While not every issue can be predicted, there are common complications that should be addressed and discussed. If a doctor neglects to have that discussion and the patient suffers, they may be held accountable.
- Misrepresentation of Risks. Consent forms must provide accurate descriptions of a patient’s risk for experiencing certain complications. If the consent form has false or inaccurate information, the patient may be able to argue they would not have consented to the procedure had they had the appropriate information.
If you’ve experienced one of the violations above, you may have the grounds and evidence necessary to file a civil claim against the medical practitioner, the hospital, or both, depending on the circumstances of your injury.
Pursue the Compensation You Deserve
We understand the frustrations you are likely experiencing after being harmed in a setting where you’re supposed to be treated and cared for. Do not let a negligent healthcare professional get away with harming you or your loved one. With the right legal team, it can be proven that your doctor injured you by performing a procedure or treatment without your consent. You may be eligible for compensation to aid with the resulting damages. Get in touch with us today for more information on filing a claim. We serve clients in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.