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The importance of informed consent

We rely on the training, experience and knowledge of doctors and nurses to treat us when we are sick or hurt. However, we still play an important role in our own care, thanks to informed consent laws. These laws protect a patient's right to agree to or deny medical treatment after receiving the proper and necessary information from a doctor.

For example, before a surgical operation, doctors must thoroughly explain to a patient what condition the surgery will treat, what the potential risks of the operation are and what prognosis is expected. This explanation must be accurate and truthful; patients must clearly understand the information presented. At that point, a patient has the right to consent to the procedure or explore alternatives. Unfortunately, medical decisions are not always made in this manner.

In some cases, doctors fail to discuss a medical condition with a patient in a clear way. The information shared with a patient may make sense to medical professionals, but it must also be understandable by someone without years of medical education. If a patient is unable to give consent due to severe impairment or mental illness, someone else must be assigned to give consent for medical purposes.

There are also instances when a doctor or nurse fails to share information that would be critical for a patient to know. Failing to disclose certain risks or side effects that might be expected or misrepresenting the anticipated success rate of a procedure could lead to a patient making a decision that is not based on facts, which could lead to unexpected complications.

In the most troubling cases, doctors perform an operation or prescribe a course of treatment without getting informed consent. This could include wrong-site surgery, unnecessary operations or completely neglecting to share information about treatment options or risks with patient. 

Being informed is one of the most powerful tools we as patients have when it comes to our health. Without being properly informed about our care, we can end up making decisions that are not in our best interests. In these situations, it may be crucial to take legal action to regain some control over our situation and hold negligent parties accountable for damages.

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