What Is Informed Consent in California?

Patients have many rights when it comes to controlling their medical care. It is ultimately up to a patient to decide which medical treatments to approve and procedures to undergo. Before a doctor or surgeon can perform a procedure on a patient, the practitioner must obtain the patient’s informed consent. With only a few exceptions for emergency medical care, failing to gain informed consent can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit in California.

Elements of Informed Consent

A patient has a right to control his or her own medical care. This includes the right to consent to a procedure after receiving all critical information about the treatment. Informed consent is a term used in the medical industry to describe a patient’s right to learn about a procedure enough to make an educated decision on whether or not to proceed with the course of treatment.

Obtaining a patient’s informed consent requires a doctor to fulfill the following responsibilities:

  • Giving the patient sufficient information so that he or she can make a meaningful health care decision.
  • Communicating the benefits and risks of the proposed procedure.
  • Answering any of the patient’s questions about the procedure.
  • Listing possible alternatives to the proposed treatment.
  • Getting the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific treatment.
  • Getting the consent of the surrogate if the patient cannot make his or her own medical decisions.

If a doctor fails to fulfill any of these responsibilities, he or she will not succeed in obtaining a patient’s informed consent. Even if a patient agrees to a surgery or treatment, this might not constitute informed consent if the doctor did not give the patient all of the necessary information to make an educated decision. Failure to obtain informed consent can cause harm to the patient and lead to a medical malpractice claim.

Medical Malpractice Laws in California

Failing to gain a patient’s authorization before conducting a procedure is a breach of patient rights. It does not give the patient the opportunity to fully understand the potential risks associated with a treatment or refuse a dangerous operation – stripping away the patient’s ability to control his or her health care.

If a patient does not authorize a procedure or was unclear about the nature or risks of the procedure, and the patient suffered an adverse health outcome during the procedure, the medical professional could be liable. Holding a practitioner or hospital liable for lack of informed consent in California takes clear and convincing evidence of three main elements:

  1. The procedure was performed without the patient’s informed consent.
  2. The patient suffered injury or harm during the procedure.
  3. Had the patient known all of the facts about the procedure, he or she would not have given his or her consent, and this would have prevented the injury.

With proof of these elements, an injured patient may be able to obtain financial compensation for losses such as related medical expenses, additional necessary surgeries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The patient may also have grounds to file a claim for medical battery if there was a misrepresentation of fact, such as a doctor telling a patient to get a treatment he or she did not need.

Do You Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney?

All medical malpractice cases in California are extremely complex. Bringing a lawsuit for lack of informed consent is not easy. The best way to protect your rights when going up against a medical practitioner, hospital or powerful insurance company is by hiring an attorney to represent you. A medical malpractice lawyer in Sacramento can review your rights and protect them using proven legal strategies.

Seek assistance from an injury attorney immediately if you believe you have been harmed because a medical professional did not obtain your informed consent.