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What is involved in the informed consent process?

Medical malpractice lawsuits in Rhode Island often involve issues of informed consent. According to the University of Washington School of Medicine, the informed consent process requires that health care providers disclose to their patients any information that they may need to make a decision regarding the acceptance or refusal of a medical intervention.

Patients must have voluntarily consented to their interventions and be competent in order for their decisions to stand. These requirements are in place to counteract the powerlessness that many patients can feel in medical situations, particularly those involving serious diseases and invasive treatments.

Generally, informed consent requires a discussion between health care providers and patients that includes:

  •          A review of the decision or procedure at hand
  •          An explanation of any reasonable alternatives to the intervention that the health care provider is proposing
  •          A discussion of related benefits, risks and uncertainties involved in each avenue of treatment
  •          An evaluation of the patient’s understanding
  •          A definite statement of acceptance by the patient for the proposed intervention   

Consent requirements may vary based on the situation and the type of medical intervention a patient is about to encounter. In some situations, consent is satisfied by filling out a general form at the time of admittance or when a patient receives treatment. Certain types of interventions, such as surgeries and administration of anesthesia, often require patients to sign a consent form after they have discussed the intervention with health care providers.

The presumption of patient consent is reserved for extreme emergency cases. If, for example, a patient is not conscious and there is no appropriate surrogate decision maker available, emergency interventions that will prevent death or disability may be utilized.   


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