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What informed consent is and why a doctor must secure it

Before a doctor offers you a certain treatment, medication or performs a surgical procedure on you, he or she is supposed to procure your informed consent. It's a concept that should be seen as a type of exchange.

In asking a patient to provide his or her informed consent, the physician is affirming that he or she has taken the time to go over both the potential risks, benefits and alternatives to pursuing a certain treatment plan. On the flip side of things, a patient who signs an informed consent acknowledges that his or her options have been disclosed and fully discussed with him or her by the health care provider.

A properly executed informed consent should be administered by the physician, not a nurse, patient representative or any other members of the health care team. In sitting down with the patient, the doctor should be clear to reinforce what the patient's known diagnosis is. They should then describe how the proposed surgery or treatment will be carried out as well as any known pros and cons associated with it.

Any alternatives to the recommended procedure should also be disclosed to the patient, regardless of how much it's estimated to cost. The doctor should detail both the risks and benefits associated with pursuing that course of action for the patient as well. Additionally, a patient should be told about the risks and benefits of not having any surgery or receiving any type of treatment at all.

Before going over the informed consent with the patient, it's important for the doctor to assess whether the patient can properly hear and understand him or her. In the case of minor children, unconscious or mentally incapacitated individuals, the doctor is responsible for explaining all of this to the parent, guardian or legal representative for the patient.

The patient must be given a signed copy of the informed consent for his or her records. An additional copy must be retained in their file at the physician's office.

If some type of surgical error occurs, a patient's condition worsens or he or she dies, it may be determined that proper procedures were not followed to secure a patient's informed consent. If you find this to be the situation in your own case, then a Tucson hospital or doctor error attorney may advise you of your right to file a lawsuit in your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Understanding informed consent: A primer," accessed Oct. 20, 2017