The most important right that a patient has is the right of informed consent. A patient should only consent to medical treatment if they have sufficient information about their diagnosis and all treatment options available in terms he/she can understand.
Before a physician can begin any course of treatment, the physician must make the patient aware of what he plans to do. For any course of treatment that is above routine medical procedures, the physician must disclose as much information as possible so the patient may make an informed decision about his/her care. This information should include:
- Diagnosis and chances of recovery
- Recommended course of treatment
- Risks and benefits involved in treatment
- Risks if no treatment is taken
- Probability of success if treatment is taken
- Recovery challenges and length of time
Although, it is wise to get written consent as evidence that consent was obtained before any medical treatment is performed, consent can be verbal, written or inferred. Inferred consent refers to a patients actions that give a physician or a health care provider the impression that they voluntarily give consent to medical treatment.
Informed consent may be bypassed in certain situations.
- Emergency situations. In instances of an emergency situation, informed consent may be bypassed if immediate treatment is necessary for the patients life or safety.
- Patient Incompetence. If patient competency is questionable, the physician can give the information to a legally appointed guardian or a family member designated by the patient to make decisions for them.
As important as it is to honor the patient's right to informed consent, it is equally important that the patient be made aware of their responsibilities as they relate to informed consent. Patient's should always:
- Fully disclose information regarding past medical history.
- Inform their physician if at anytime they do not understand the course of medical treatment.
- Follow the treatment plan as agreed to prevent any adverse reactions or results.