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Informed Consent and Unauthorized Treatment

After a personal injury or medical condition happens, what is the next step? Do you need surgery? Can surgery wait? Which medication or treatment is right for you?

We trust our doctors to provide the correct medical treatment. We also trust doctors to treat all patients with the highest standard of care.

But how do we know if we are getting all the information? How do we know if we are making informed medical decisions? What happens if a doctor gives medical treatment without telling the patient about the risks or side effects?

This article discusses medical malpractice cases based on informed consent and unauthorized treatment.

Informed Consent Law

Medical professionals need a patient's informed consent before giving medical treatment. Lack of informed consent can lead to a medical malpractice claim.

Informed consent is a doctor's ethical and legal obligation. State laws often take a patient-centered approach. A doctor (or representative) should discuss the following with a patient before medical treatment:

  • Patient's diagnosis
  • Nature and risks of recommended treatment
  • Nature and risks of alternative treatment
  • Consequences of taking no action

The law gives patients the right to receive information before medical treatment. By law, the information must be easy to understand. As a result, patients can make informed decisions about their healthcare. Informed consent is when a patient gets proper information about and consent to treatment.

Many hospitals, doctor's offices, and treatment centers have patients sign informed consent forms. That way, there is a record of informed consent.


A patient must be competent to give informed consent.

The law assumes adults are competent. You can challenge this presumption in cases of mental illness or other impairments.

Minors are not presumed to be competent. As a result, they cannot consent to medical treatment and medical procedures. In these cases, the parent or guardian of the child must give consent on the minor's behalf.

In emergency situations, competency standards can be different. If a person is not competent during an emergency, what happens? The competency rule changes. This is an emergency rule exception.

For example, someone is unconscious and requires life-saving medical care. Healthcare providers consider whether a reasonable patient would refuse medical attention if conscious and competent.

The emergency exception also applies when providing care will prevent permanent disability. In this case, we assume that a competent and reasonable person would want the doctor to prevent permanent disabilities. If the doctor knows a patient would not consent to a specific treatment, the doctor cannot abuse this exception, even if it would save the patient's life.

Unauthorized Treatment

If a doctor doesn't fully explain the procedure or the risks of the procedure, that treatment may not be authorized. To win a malpractice claim, the patient must show:

  • The doctor performed the treatment or surgical procedure without the patient's informed consent
  • If the patient knew about the risks of the procedure, they would not have agreed to the procedure and would not have gotten injured

If a doctor fails to get informed consent for non-emergency treatment, they may be charged with a civil offense like gross negligence and a criminal offense. Charges can include battery.

Find Out if You Have a Valid Malpractice Claim

If you suffered injury because a medical provider didn't disclose the risks of treatment options, you may have a medical malpractice lawsuit.

If you are a victim of medical malpractice, consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney. A medical malpractice lawyer will discuss your legal rights and help you make informed decisions about your case.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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