What Does Signing An Informed Consent Form Mean?
There is probably a lot the average patient does not know about the idea of informed consent when it comes to their doctor’s activities. If your doctor performs an invasive procedure on you without your written consent or the written consent of someone who can legally speak on your behalf, then that is considered battery. Consent forms are also used to clarify a situation in a medical malpractice lawsuit, or any kind of surgical procedure that goes wrong.
The Different Levels Of Consent
When you walk into your doctor’s office either for a scheduled appointment or for a situation where you acknowledge you need help, then you have given consent to be examined. While this sort of consent is usually implied, your doctor may keep you updated on everything they are doing during the examination just to make sure there is no confusion. Many doctors also ask for permission to do various types of examination procedures as the process goes along. This is called implied consent.
If your examination or procedure requires a more intimate approach, such as your doctor performing a standard in-office procedure, then you may wind up giving what is called expressed consent. In most cases, expressed consent can be done orally and will hold up in a court of law if something happens. Many doctors perform a written expressed consent form for newer patients or patients who express apprehension at having a procedure done.
It is important to remember that no one can force you to have any kind of medical procedure done. It is also illegal for your doctor to try to deceive or coerce you into having a procedure done. Nothing can legally be done to you without your consent, or the consent of someone who is legally allowed to speak for you.
So What Is Informed Consent?
Informed consent is usually sought out prior to major surgical procedures, or before the patient takes part in a medical trial study. A comprehensive medical informed consent form can help a doctor to work on a patient without the fear of a medical malpractice lawsuit. In general, most informed consent forms:
- Outline the procedure in layman’s terms
- Identify all of the potential risks involved with the procedure
- Indicate that the patient signed the form of their own free will
- Indicate that the patient was fully aware of what was going on when the form was signed
Consent Versus Negligent Care
A patient who signs an informed consent form is trusting that the doctor is competent and knows what they are doing. While an informed consent form can protect a doctor from a medical malpractice case that may arise from a surgical procedure, it does not protect from negligence. If your doctor did not perform your procedure in a competent way, then the informed consent form is not going to save your doctor from a day in court.
How Does Consent Work For A Minor
As mentioned earlier, consent can be given on your behalf by the person you have named your health proxy, or you have given power of attorney for such situations. But what about minors (children usually age 16 or younger) who cannot understand what the procedure means and are mentally incapable of making their own decisions?
Any person considered to be a minor in the state they live in must get consent for a medical procedure from their parent or guardian. The minor age guidelines vary from state to state, but an informed consent on behalf of a child can only be signed by their legal guardian. It is important to note that the doctor is more than welcome to explain the procedure to the minor, but they must also inform the legal guardian of the risks so the guardian can make an informed decision.
Consent And Religious Beliefs
The idea of informed consent is important when discussing surgical procedures and religious beliefs. Remember that a doctor cannot perform surgery or put a patient into a clinical study without first informing the patient of the potential issues and getting a signed consent. If the patient decides to not get the surgery done, or a parent decides to not have surgery performed on their child, the doctor cannot insist that surgery takes place. There are many instances where people allow their religious beliefs to take precedence over their medical needs and they refuse to sign an informed consent form.
Before your doctor can examine you or perform any procedure on you, they must have your consent. For long-term care issues and invasive surgeries, doctors always go through all of the potential risks with patients beforehand and get those patients to sign an informed consent.