I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients share with me that their friends and family members discouraged them from looking into a medical malpractice lawsuit for the simple reason that a patient signed a consent form.
Consent forms are often included in a huge stack of paperwork that a doctor’s front-office worker, receptionist, or nurse has a patient fill out before being seen by a doctor. The purpose of consent forms is to make an attempt to comply with the requirement of Texas law for physicians to obtain informed consent.
What is informed consent?
Informed consent means that the patient must give the doctor permission to provide treatment or perform a procedure or surgery. But the obligation doesn’t stop there.
Before the patient can give true informed consent, the doctor must disclose the risks and benefits of the proposed care, compared with the risks and benefits of alternative procedures, and the risks and benefits of doing nothing. While many doctors brush off the informed consent responsibility or delegate it to a nurse or staff member, under Texas law that’s not allowed—it’s a duty placed solely on the shoulders of the physician.
What does it mean (and not mean) if I sign a consent form?
Let’s say that your doctor properly disclosed the risks and benefits of going forward with a surgery and you then signed a consent form. You’ve agreed to allow the doctor to proceed with a surgery that’s performed consistent with the standard of care.
In other words, by signing the consent form you acknowledged that there are risks of having a surgery even when the doctor or surgeon does everything right. Complications sometimes occur even when surgeons, doctors, and other healthcare providers make no mistake in complying with the standard of care. Those are the risks that you agree to when signing a consent form.
On the other hand, by signing a consent form, you aren’t agreeing that the surgeon can place your safety at risk by performing a sub-standard procedure fraught with negligence, mistakes, errors, and violations of the standard of care.
An example may be helpful. One of the risks of having any abdominal procedure is that the bowel may be accidentally punctured. Bowel perforation is one of the known risks of abdominal surgery and can happen even with proper surgical care; thus, it’s covered by the consent form. If the surgeon doesn’t promptly recognize and treat this complication, though, that’s medical malpractice that falls outside of the consent form. Remember: A patient can never give consent to medical malpractice!
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor medical, surgical, or hospital care, contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.