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Informed Consent Protects Patient Safety

shutterstock_111753221-doctor-mom-child2-300x200.jpgMany cases of medical malpractice occur because patients are not given the opportunity to approve the treatment their physician chooses to apply. In order to reduce the possibility of serious injury or death, physicians conducting medical treatment on a non-emergency basis in Illinois are required to obtain patient consent prior to commencing medical care.

Illinois Law and Informed Consent

In Illinois, physicians are required to inform patients of the potential risks, complications, and alternative treatments that are available regarding medical care. This is especially important when it comes to surgery as there may be less invasive options available that pose significantly fewer risks.

The more information a physician discloses, the better. This includes answering any questions patients may have regarding a physicians education, training, and experience performing the procedures they are recommending. Physicians must also disclose safety information related to the devices and equipment that will be used to conduct the procedure. While they do not need to guarantee that these will work properly, physicians are required to notify patients of any known safety hazards and risks.

Exceptions to Informed Consent

Physicians are not required to obtain informed consent from patients undergoing emergency medical treatment, such as lifesaving procedures following an automobile accident. In Illinois, the law presumes that the physician will consider all available facts and information prior making a treatment decision on behalf of the patient. However, this does not absolve physicians who abuse this privilege and conduct experimental, or other treatments that present significant known hazards to patient health and safety.

Illinois' informed consent provisions also cover those who are incapable of making medical decisions on their own behalf. These include children, patients who are mentally ill, or patients who are incapacitated. In these cases, consent must be obtained from the individual's parent or legal guardian.

Experimental Surgeries are Especially Dangerous

The hottest trend or the latest fad can pose a significant health risk. While medical technology is growing by leaps and bounds, that does not mean that every procedure, every device, and every strategy is effective or safe. Experimental surgeries can cause heart attacks, strokes, brain damage, nerve damage, paralysis, and loss of life.

Physicians treating patients using experimental technology or treatment methods are required to provide patients with information notifying them of the potential risks. When they don't, they can be held liable for medical malpractice. Such was the case of Dr. Mark Holterman whose experimental treatments led to the permanent injury of a child who will now require life-long care as the result of a botched esophageal operation.

Holding Physicians Liable for Medical Malpractice

Physicians can be held liable for negligence and medical malpractice if they do not properly inform a patient prior to the commencement of a procedure. In cases of gross negligence, patients and their medical malpractice lawyer may also seek a claim for battery if it can be shown that the physicians intent was to take advantage of, or otherwise deliberately harm the patient.

Patients in Illinois do not waive their rights even if the physician has informed them of all the potential risks associated with a medical procedure. Indeed, the law specifically prohibits the use of any language, either verbally or in writing, that would restrict the rights of patients to pursue compensation for any injury that might occur.

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