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What is informed consent?

All health care providers in North Carolina and around the country must explain to their patients what their health condition is and what options are available to treat it. This gives the patient the opportunity to consent to a specific form of treatment based on detailed information. Some treatments require written consent, but others simply require oral consent.

The informed consent process begins with the provider explaining the treatment to the patient. This includes the likeliness of success, what happens during the treatment and any risks or side effects of the treatment along with their likelihood. The provider must also explain any other treatment options and whether the patient needs the treatment immediately or can wait. The provider should ensure that the patient understands all of this information. This is so that the patient has enough information to make a decision about the treatment.

In certain instances with a patient who can no longer understand the information well enough to provide consent, the health care provider may receive consent from a surrogate. Providers do not need any consent to perform emergency treatment when delaying it would endanger the patient. A patient does have the right to refuse treatment or select a treatment plan other than the one that the provider recommends.

If a health care provider does not obtain the informed consent from the patient who is subsequently injured, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed against the provider and the health care facility. An attorney may be able to help the patient prepare this lawsuit and, if appropriate, negotiate a settlement offer with the provider’s malpractice insurance carrier.

Source: Medline Plus, “Informed consent – adults“, October 31, 2014

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