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A patient looking at a clipboard with her female doctor.

Can I Be Sued If I Don't Secure Informed Consent?

I almost always use an informed consent form with my patients, but not 100% of the time. Does this open me up to a lawsuit?

Implementing an informed consent process in your practice on a consistent basis is recommended. In today’s legal environment, failure to obtain a patient’s informed consent can be a component of many malpractice cases. And patients increasingly feel it is their right to be informed and to participate in decisions about their care. 

Keep in mind the informed consent process requires the patient to fully appreciate:

  • The nature of the treatment to be rendered
  • All material risks associated with the treatment and the possibility that those risks will happen
  • Alternative treatments available and the risks associated with them
  • The risks of not receiving treatment

Of course, this means informed consent is not only a form, but rather a two-way communication in which patients are asked if they understand the risks of care and are given an opportunity to ask questions and have a conversation with you. The patient must comprehend the information well enough to be able to relate it back to you.

In terms of the informed consent documentation, the patient should be given adequate time to read and review the form thoroughly before giving it their signature. Finally, record and document the entire informed consent discussion and process in the patient's records to substantiate that the patient understood what they were signing.

As always, check with your state regarding the legal requirement for informed consent in your state. The laws are changing and most states now have statutory requirements.

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