If a mechanic accepted your car for an oil change, took into his shop, and when you came to pick it up, he had revamped the entire fueling system without mention, the man would be out of business in short order. On the other hand, what happens if during one of these unrequested repairs the mechanic had further damaged you car, making it need even more repairs. Of course, most car owners would not stand for any of this nonsense.
Take the above circumstances, and apply them not to your car, but to your own body. Sadly, things of this nature have happened in hospitals before, and for this reason, the state of Maryland has enacted “informed consent” laws for patients and their healthcare professionals to abide by at all times. In essence, healthcare professionals must tell patients about all aspects of a procedure before it performed, regardless of how small or minor it may be. They must have your informed consent, or permission to proceed.
Exceptions to Informed Consent for Medical Emergencies
Given the nature of medical emergencies, sometimes informed consent is assumed, such as in cases where non-treatment will result in death. However, for any elective medical procedure, any healthcare procedure known about ahead of time, or any medical treatment performed on a conscious victim capable of making good judgment, healthcare professionals are required to seek informed consent before proceeding.
What Is Informed Consent?
Informed consent can be acquired by healthcare professionals only after certain conditions are met. The list of conditions required for informed consent in the state of Maryland is listed below:
- The process of the procedure must be presented in writing. Healthcare providers must present this information to patients, both in written form, but also, with a full, thorough explanation by your doctor, including you acknowledging that you understand the process. Granted, medical procedures are not easily understood in full, but doctors must give the patients a fair, thorough, and accurate assessment of risk and the process within wording the patient will comprehend.
- Detailed information must be offered to the patient. Detailed information can include information such as the time length of the surgery, types of anesthetic to be used, recovery periods, and other important issues, such as how much physical pain and discomfort is involved. If all of your questions can’t be answered thoroughly by your surgeon, find a new one as soon as possible.
- Realistic expectations for the medical procedure benefits must be understood by the patient. In essence, the doctor cannot oversell the outcome of a procedure to prospective patients. The results of the surgery need to be fully understood before you go under the knife. This information must also include realistic assessments of what will occur if the surgery does not go well and other risks.
- Patients must know the risks and probabilities of success associated with their specific medical procedure. Part of an informed patient is understanding the risks and probability of each risk occurring. Each individual patient presents their own unique risks or benefits, including age, medical history, and a slew of other factors. Surgeons must be able to account for all of this, know the statistics, and convey this information in an understandable manner to the patients.
- The patient should always be aware of the alternative options, if they are available. There is always the choice not to undergo a given procedure, but there are risks. A doctor should clearly explain all alternatives and their possible outcome to patients. If non-surgical alternatives exist, medical professionals have a duty to inform patients.
- Patients must know all potential risks, as minor or substantial as they may be. Any surgical procedure presents a reasonable amount of risk. However, each procedure has a varied level of danger, and given each individual patient’s history, the dangers may be even more so than average. Medical professionals owe their patients an honest and upfront assessment of the risks and dangers they may face.
Establishing Boundaries of Informed Consent
Again, patients must be presented the above information in both written and verbal form, as well as be afforded the chance to ask any questions they may have. The consent, however, only applies to the procedures specified beforehand. Nothing more can or should occur, save for a medical emergency. The decision of a surgeon to address other issues, without your consent, not only can pass on enormous medical costs to the patient, since insurance companies did not approve the situation, but also, there is a huge medical risk being taken without your permission.