Before any doctor provides a medical service, treatment, or surgery, he or she is obligated to provide you with information about that service in order for you to decide whether or not you wish to proceed with the recommendation. The physician is required to discuss with you the known risks and benefits of the treatment. This process of being informed of the risks and benefits of treatment is known as "informed consent". The informed consent process is designed to help you weigh all of the information available to make an educated choice. It is based on the moral and legal premise that you, the patient, have the right to make an educated decision about your own health and medical conditions. While your doctor is supposed to be a valuable source of advice and information, only you can make the decision as to what is right for you.
You probably have seen, and in fact signed, what is known as a "consent form." This is the form that should specifically set forth the name of the procedure to be performed, the identity of the physician doing the procedure and documentation that the known risks of the procedure were discussed with you. Despite the relative simplicity of the informed consent process, there are times when legal issues arise.
For many reasons, including the very limited time a patient has with a physician or a physician's desire to obtain experience with a certain procedure, occasions arise where relevant information is not provided and the patient is therefore deprived of the opportunity to ask important questions.
A physician should always be competent and proficient in performing the recommended procedure and the hospital or medical facility where the procedure is going to be done has a legal obligation to make sure that the physician is qualified and experienced in doing the procedure. Make sure to ask your physician questions about his or her experience in performing the procedure and obtain information regarding the physician's education, training and experience. Ask if the physician is board certified, which would demonstrate he or she has passed an examination in their particular area of medicine. Also, determine the specifics of the procedure and limit your consent to just the procedure discussed. At times, a physician will do a procedure outside the scope of their hospital privileges. What this means is that despite the fact that a hospital specifically approves a physician for certain types of surgeries or procedures, the physician does something outside of these approved procedures. Another situation that can arise is when a physician fills out the consent form for one surgical procedure but actually does another. In these circumstances, you as a patient may have the right to file a claim against the physician and hospital for lack of informed consent.
You as a patient have the right to make educated and informed decisions about your health. If you or a loved one believes you were misinformed or misled about a surgery or some type of medical treatment, you may have a claim. You may contact the Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys at Richards & Richards for a free evaluation of your case.