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What is 'informed consent' in medical malpractice?

We've recently discussed various issues that can be relevant in bringing medical malpractice cases in Connecticut. These include some of the procedural requirements, as well as how such cases differ from other negligence cases, and on what factors a court may rely to determine whether a case merits being judged according to those differences. We've touched on the fact that medical professionals have a standard of care that they must meet when treating patients. This week, we'll take a look at a related, but different, duty the law imposes on medical professionals: that of informed consent.

Informed consent is a legal duty that applies to medical procedures and treatments in Connecticut medical malpractice cases. While the duties we've previously discussed required physicians and other medical professionals to exercise a certain standard of care in the diagnosis and treatment of health issues, the duty to obtain informed consent exists separately from that standard and has its own elements. The Connecticut state court system explains this legal requirement in its civil jury instructions 3.8-4.

 

Before a doctor or other medical professional performs some treatment or procedure, the patient must consent to it, if he or she is capable of doing so. But, beyond that, this consent must be 'informed,' which implies that there is a duty incumbent on the healthcare professionals, who are the ones whose training and experience puts them in the best position to do so, to tell the patient about all the potential risks involved with the treatment or procedure. Further, the medical professional must also tell the patient about any feasible alternatives to the course of action recommended.

There are some specific elements that a plaintiff seeking medical expenses or other damages in a lawsuit based upon informed consent must prove, which may be covered in a future post. For now, though, the important take away for Connecticut patients is that they have a right to know the possible consequences of a certain course of medical action, and they also have the right to say no to their doctors.

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