What Are Doctors Required To Disclose About Surgical Risks?
If you have had a surgery chances are you have signed a consent form acknowledging that the surgery comes with certain risks.
Doctors have a legal duty to provide patients who are going into surgery with “informed consent”. The concept of informed consent means that a patient must be informed about the nature of the treatment, the expected benefits of the treatment, alternative treatments and the material risks of the treatment.
The duty to inform about material risks is important. Whether or not a risk is “material” depends on two things, namely, how serious the risk is and how common the risk is. If a surgery carries a very small chance of a serious complication (like paralysis or death) the law says that the patient should be informed about the risk even though the chance of the risk materializing is very low.
If a doctor fails to inform a patient about a material risk and that risk happens, the doctor may be liable to the patient for damages. In order to recover damages the patient must prove that a reasonable person in his or her position would not have agreed to the treatment if the risk had been properly explained.
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