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What is Informed Consent?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Would you buy a car without knowing anything about the car's specification and capabilities? Would you sign a contract without asking what the contract requires? Would you let a doctor do whatever he likes to your body without explaining anything to you?

Well, you shouldn't and you don't have to. You have a right to decide what is done to you and your body. Because of this right, we have the concept of informed consent.

All 50 states have laws that require informed consent. While the laws may vary, the general principle is that you should receive all necessary information about your medical condition, treatment choices, benefits and risks of treatment, and prognosis. Doctors can't just say, "You're sick. Take this medication," without telling you what you're sick with, what the medication is, and how it can hurt or help.

In order for a patient to give informed consent, a doctor should discuss, in easy to understand terms:

  • The diagnosis of your condition,
  • The process and purpose of any proposed treatments and any possible alternative treatments,
  • The benefits and risks of treatment, and
  • The benefits and risk of not getting treatment.

Failure to provide information and get informed consent can leave a doctor vulnerable to medical malpractice, negligence, or battery claims.


In certain situations, informed consent is not required.


You need emergency heart surgery to clear a blocked artery, but you're passed out. When you're not in a condition to consent, but emergency medical action is necessary to save you, a doctor is not required to get informed consent.


Some people may not be competent to give consent. While adults are generally presumed competent to give informed consent, children and mentally ill adults are often presumed incompetent. In these situations, a parent or court appointed guardian will be responsible for consenting on the patient's behalf.

If a doctor has treated you without first getting your informed consent and you suffered an injury as a result, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

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