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When Failure to Warn Becomes Medical Malpractice

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Medical procedures carry an element of risk and physicians and healthcare providers have a duty of care to inform their patients that these risks are present. When physicians or healthcare providers fail to warn their patients of the risks involved in a procedure, their negligence makes them liable for medical malpractice.

Information Protects Patient Safety

Physicians in Illinois are required to discuss a patient’s overall health and medical conditions with the patient and convey the purpose of recommended procedures. They are also required to discuss the risks and benefits of testing, treatments, and procedures with the patient or a legal guardian that has a durable power of attorney granting them the right to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the patient.

Physicians and healthcare providers must also discuss alternatives to proposed testing and treatment and any risks or benefits they offer. Finally, physicians must inform patients of the risks and benefits that may occur if they refuse the recommended testing, treatment, or prescription medication

Consent is the Foundation for Treatment

Physicians and healthcare providers in Illinois are required to obtain informed consent from patients prior to commencing treatment. This means that patients must be fully informed regarding the course of testing or treatment, the measures that will be taken, and any associated risks involved in the process. This includes everything from simple blood draws to complex MRI scans and other diagnostic testing.

While simple procedures may allow for verbal consent, more involved procedures such as surgery or enrollment in drug trials require written consent. In circumstances where patients refuse treatment or testing, physicians cannot exert undue pressure to convince the patient to undergo procedures they feel would be detrimental to their overall health and well-being. The law requires physicians to uphold and respect the decisions of patients regarding their healthcare even when their professional opinion is contrary to the patient’s or his or her representatives.

Establishing Liability

Physicians who fail to obtain informed consent from their patients place patient safety in danger. Failing to provide thorough and accurate information to ensure that a patient fully understands the risks, benefits, and alternatives available is considered medical malpractice in Illinois. Individuals who have undergone treatment or testing without full disclosure regarding the risks of procedures can pursue compensation with the assistance of a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. This may be possible even in instances where the failure to warn did not lead to negative healthcare outcomes. 

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