Patients: Make Sure You Are Fully Informed Prior to Treatment
As medical practices continue to get busier, patients must take an increasingly active role in their care and the decision-making process. While some decisions are relatively straightforward, doctors must notify their patients of any known risks to allow them to make the most knowledgeable choice possible. This is known as “informed consent.”
North Carolina medical malpractice law looks carefully at the issue of informed consent before permitting patients to take legal action against a health care provider. Our Charlotte medical malpractice lawyers recommend specific actions patients can take to help ensure they are well-informed.
The Rules of Informed Consent are Not Always Completely Objective
North Carolina law essentially looks at three issues when deciding whether a medical provider has sufficiently informed a patient:
- Standards of practice: The health care provider obtained patient consent based on how other local providers within the same profession, with the same experience and training, would proceed under the same circumstances.
- Patient understanding: A “reasonable person” would understand the procedures and risks based on information provided to the patient or authorized representative.
- Patient agreement: A reasonable person would choose to undergo the treatment if advised to do so by the health care provider.
Of course, the ability of an individual to file a medical malpractice lawsuit — or to prevail in a case — depends on how judges or jurors define “reasonable.” While the courts attempt to make this determination fairly, many medical malpractice lawyers recommend that patients take a proactive approach to making potentially-risky medical decisions.
Make Sure You Know the Risks Before Agreeing to Treatment
When health care providers speak with patients, they may use technical terminology in an effort to present precise information. While this language is the most accurate, it may not effectively educate individuals so they can make the right decisions. When any decision involves risk of injury, patients need to take the following steps to make sure they understand the issues:
- Ask for definitions: No one should be embarrassed to ask a provider to explain any unclear terminology.
- Identify treatment alternatives: Always ask if less risky treatments are available. If so, find out about the expected outcomes and risks of these treatments as well.
- Ask about the treating provider’s experience: Establish which health care provider will perform the procedure — and his or her past experience.
- Bring a friend or relative: Two people can interpret the same information differently. A trusted individual is likely to ask different questions while providing a different viewpoint that can be valuable in the decision-making process.
- Get information in writing: A written document helps clarify the anticipated outcomes and risks of a procedure while providing information that patients can show to loved ones or to other medical providers for a second opinion.
In the Event of Injuries, Seek Skilled Legal Support
Anyone who believes they were not properly informed prior to a medical procedure that caused injuries should obtain legal advice immediately. Brown Moore and Associates, PLLC offers a complimentary consultation and takes a full-service approach to guide clients through the complex legal process.