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Understanding informed consent in health care

When a person in Maryland goes to the doctor, they should always know that it is their choice as to what, if any, treatments they undergo or medications they take. As explained by the American Medical Association, except in extreme emergencies, health care is not to be administered to a person without their approval or the approval of an appropriate representative acting on the patient’s behalf. This is called informed consent.

Informed consent is actually a matter of both law and ethics in the medical world and there are a few specific factors that must be present for it to be said that a patient was properly informed and provided consent. Certainly important is any signature on a document authorizing treatment. However, such a signature may not be sufficient if the person who signed the document was not capable of making an informed decision.

Another essential component to informed consent is that the patient must have been provided by the health care professional sufficient information about their condition and any other details they would need to know before making a choice. This includes the potential risks and benefits of undergoing a certain procedure as well as choosing not to accept treatment. All options available to the patient should be explained in full.

If you would like to learn more about what constitutes true informed consent by a health care provider to a patient, please feel free to visit the patients’ rights and medical professionals’ responsibilities page of our Maryland medical malpractice website.