The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that physicians must obtain informed consent. A physician is personally responsible for obtaining informed consent from a patient prior to performing medical procedures. As a result, physicians cannot delegate this duty to other staff members, such as nurses or physician’s assistants.
Informed consent is defined as a formal agreement that a patient signs. The agreement gives permission for a medical procedure after having been told about the risks, benefits, etc. The goal of Informed consent is to be sure that the patient fully understands the procedure or treatment. And is also aware of the risks, benefits and other possible alternatives.
PA Malpractice Lawsuit – Physicians must obtain informed consent
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that physicians must obtain informed consent came as the result of Shinal v. Toms. This was a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Geisinger Hospital in Danville. The case came about as the result of a brain surgery that went wrong. Consequently, the surgery resulted in serious injury to the patient. The patient suffered a stroke, brain injury and partial blindness. Most noteworthy according to the lawsuit, the physician’s assistant, not the operating physician, provided the patient with information about the procedure. It was also the assistant, and not the physician who obtained the patients signature on the consent form. Finally, the plaintiff claimed she was never informed of the risks of the surgery or alternative treatments.
The PA Supreme Court ruling outlined that the duty to obtain a patient’s informed consent is a non-delegable duty. The duty belongs solely to the physician conducting the surgery or treatment. “A physician cannot rely on staff to disclose sufficient information required to obtain a patient’s informed consent. Without direct dialogue and a two-way exchange between the physician and the patient, the physician cannot be confident that the patient comprehends the risks, benefits, likelihood of success and alternatives.”
Law Regarding a Patient’s Informed Consent
The PA Supreme Court decision that physicians must obtain informed consent is limited to the procedures mentioned in Section 504 of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act. The act specifically states: A physician owes a duty to a patient to obtain Informed Consent of the patient or the patient’s authorized representative prior to the conducting the following procedures:
- Surgery, including the related administration of anesthesia;
- Administering radiation or chemotherapy;
- Administering a blood transfusion and all blood products;
- Inserting a surgical device or appliance; and
- Administering an experimental medication, using an experimental device or using an approved medication or device in an experimental manner.
Your Rights as a Patient
Physicians must obtain informed consent. It is the right of every patient who needs to undergo a medical procedure, surgery or other medical treatment, to expect to be receive the information necessary about the treatment to make an informed decision. This information should include your diagnosis and the proposed treatment plan. Furthermore, it should also include any and all risks involved with the procedure or treatment, benefits of the treatment and also alternatives to the recommended course of treatment. Finally, a patient should be asked to sign an informed Consent Form only after being informed of all of these risks, benefits and alternatives, and it is clear that the patient understands all of the information.
If a patient is not fully informed of the risks involved with a medical procedure or treatment, and a serious injury occurs as the result of the treatment, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice suit. Certain situations may arise where informed consent is not required, such as in the event of an emergency. This may occur when a patient is unconscious and enters the emergency room with the life threatening injury.
Medical Malpractice Injuries
Have a question about the informed consent law, call us for more information. If you have been injured as a result of a medical error and would like to speak to an attorney, contact us today. If you have suffered due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, we can help. Call the medical malpractice attorneys at Distasio Kowaslski in Wilkes-Barre today at 570-970-5400.