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What is the legal standard for informed consent?

There can be many challenges in a patient’s relationship with his or her doctor. One of these is that the doctor generally has more power. A number of patients file medical malpractice lawsuits because their doctors abused that power.

In general, these lawsuits arise because doctors either did not receive permission for a treatment or procedure, or failed to obtain informed consent.

To obtain informed consent, a doctor must share information with a patient about the patient’s diagnosis, as well as the potential risks and benefits of a given course of action. The physician must also discuss any alternative treatments to the one he or she recommends, as well as the risks and benefits of those treatments. In some emergency cases, however, doctors and hospitals are not required to obtain consent from patients who are unresponsive, intoxicated or have an altered mental status.

When a doctor does not obtain informed consent for a treatment, it is known as an "unauthorized treatment." In many cases, patients would not have agreed to the doctor’s recommendation if they understood the potential risks. When those patients suffer negative consequences as a result, they may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. In rare instances, they may also press battery charges against the doctor who treated them.

If you are thinking about any kind of medical malpractice lawsuit, and especially if you believe that your physician failed to obtain informed consent, it is important to speak to an attorney who can help you decide whether to seek damages.

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