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Informed consent is critical for medical decisions

In almost all cases, doctors must ensure that they are telling patients the risks and benefits of procedures. Informed consent is the legal standard for making sure that this happens. There are a few limited cases in which a doctor can move forward with a procedure without informed consent, but these aren't common at all.

Typically, a doctor can bypass the need for informed consent if the patient is in critical condition and the procedure is urgent and the only way to save the patient's life. Without the urgency that comes with an emergency case, there is usually a requirement for the doctor to have informed consent.

There are times when a patient might not give the consent for a procedure. It is possible for that person's agent to provide it. This is often the case with children who can't make their own decisions. A parent will consent to the treatments necessary instead. It might also be what happens for an elderly person or someone who is mentally incapable of understanding the possible risks and benefits of specific medical care.

Doctors can prove that a patient was informed of the risks and benefits through the use of consent forms. Some practitioners are using very specific forms that ask questions to ensure that the person has a good idea of what might happen with specific procedures.

When a doctor doesn't get the appropriate consent, there is a chance that a medical malpractice claim will follow the procedure if there are issues that come from it. Lack of informed consent might be difficult to prove, but it isn't impossible.

Source: American Medical Association, "Informed Consent," accessed May 31, 2018

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