What is Informed Consent to Medical Treatment?

People place a lot of trust in doctors. We rely on them to communicate their knowledge to us in order to help us, as patients, to understand what procedures and course of treatment they plan to take to help improve or maintain our physical or mental health.

It is absolutely necessary for your doctor to provide you with a clear explanation as part of the process of obtaining “informed consent.”

If your doctor doesn’t get your informed consent to treatment, and you are injured, you may need to consult a medical malpractice lawyer to get advice about your legal rights and options.

What Do Doctors Need to Explain?

Medical malpractice lawyer John McKiggan explains what a patient’s rights are in Nova Scotia regarding informed consent. Before any procedure is done, the doctor must take the time to explain why the procedure is recommended and what the patient should reasonably expect if he or she consents to it.

As part of the informed consent process the doctor must explain:

  • The nature of the medical procedure.
  • The alternatives to the procedure.
  • The risks, benefits and uncertainties involved in having or not having the procedure.

How Does a Patient Give Consent?

Informed consent can happen either verbally or in writing. But most often it is given by signing a consent form. Patients should be careful to look over the form to make sure that the form says essentially the same thing that the doctor has told them verbally and that no pertinent details have been left out. When a doctor does not give a patient the necessary information, or if a procedure is performed without informed consent, it is essentially an assault, since each person has a right to determine what happens to his or her own body.

How Difficult Is It to Prove an Absence of Informed Consent?

Having a procedure performed without informed consent is a valid reason to look for a medical malpractice lawyer in Halifax. However, these types of cases are sometimes hard to prove. While doctors should be careful to document consent by having patients sign forms, patients don’t always perform a comparable action. Documenting information about a procedure and how it has been explained by a physician can help Halifax lawyers as they put together your medical malpractice case.

This means taking notes of any conversations you and your doctor have about suggested procedures. Some people even record conversations, with their doctors’ consent. Notes are especially important when discussing the risks of a procedure and whether or not there are alternatives. Without documentation, a medical malpractice case about informed consent is often the patient’s word against the doctor’s. Frequently Canadian courts tend to favour doctors unless the patient has strong evidence to prove they were not provided a proper explanation that allowed the patient to give their informed consent.

How Can I Prevent Being Treated Without Informed Consent?

While doctors have a responsibility to explain a procedure or course of treatment, patients can help matters by educating themselves about their conditions. They may conduct their own research and present their doctors with information that they have found. While doctors may still want to hold to their original recommendations, they should take the time to answer any specific questions that patients have. Showing that you are interested in the process may motivate doctors to provide better and more detailed explanations.

What Do I Do If I’ve Been Denied Informed Consent?

If you believe a procedure was performed without your permission, and you are experiencing undesirable results, a medical malpractice lawyer in Halifax may be able to help. Before going to a consultation, write down as much information about your situation as you can. The lawyer will review this and give you an honest take on what you can expect if you pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit,

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