A few weeks ago, we discussed the concept of “informed consent” with regards to medical malpractice cases in Connecticut. Basically, medical professionals have a duty to ensure that patients understand the risks and benefits of a certain course of medical treatment, that they are aware of feasible alternatives and that they consent to going forward with the treatment. But what does this mean, in practice, to a person who has been injured and is attempting to recover for his or her medical expenses and other losses due to a lack of informed consent? One of the main important concepts in consent-based medical malpractice cases is “materiality.” When a patient is informed about a medical treatment or procedure, he or she must be given all information regarding the material risks of the treatment. In this context, “material” information is that information which a reasonably prudent person would take into account when deciding whether to submit to the treatment. Note that this is an objective, rather than subjective standard. This means that materiality is not based upon what this particular patient may have thought, but what a hypothetical reasonable person would have found important. The second important idea in malpractice cases based upon lack of informed consent is that of “proximate cause.” Under Connecticut law, this means that a person injured by a medical treatment must show that if disclosure of material risks had been made, a reasonable person would not have consented to the treatment. Again, the state of mind of the particular patient involved is not the standard, but rather whether a hypothetical reasonable patient would have found the risk significant enough to mot submit to the treatment.
As one might imagine from the above descriptions, whether a risk that was not disclosed is material and was a proximate cause of any given patient’s injury may be quite a complicated question. The ability of the parties to make the case that a reasonable person would have found the information material and significant enough to refuse a treatment may be paramount in the outcome of a case. Because of this, people who have been injured by medical malpractice may wish to consider consulting a Connecticut personal injury attorney.