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.
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.
The last time this space discussed medical malpractice we touched on the difference between the standards that are used in a traditional negligence case and those used in medical malpractice actions. You may recall it has to do with the "reasonable person" standard used in the former cases, and the reasonable professional exercising the accepted standard of care in the latter. While this may make sense in theory, how, in practice does one know which standard to apply?
We've previously discussed in this space that many medical malpractice suits in Connecticut are based on the concept of negligence. Negligence is a legal concept that comes down to us from the common law, which has its origins in England a long time ago. Suffice to say the basic idea of negligence has changed through the years and is a bit more well-defined now that many states have codified what it means and the methods of showing it in court. But, while medical malpractice cases may often rest on a negligence theory, there are some differences that should be understood.
Patients rely on the expertise of medical professionals everyday. Whether he or she requires a surgery for an injury, illness or an elective procedure, much trust is placed with the medical professionals performing the surgery. However, errors and medical negligence could occur, causing the patient to endure unexpected harm.
We trust healthcare professionals to care for us in a ways that will benefit our health and well-being. That is often their goal as well, however, sometimes things go wrong. This can be unintentional, but harmful just the same. If doctor error or hospital negligence has left you or a loved one injured, potential damages could be awarded.