Few jobs carry as much responsibility as being a physician. Part of that responsibility is to gain the informed consent of your patients for any procedures you carry out. You may have the expertise, but the patient has the right to decide what does and does not happen to their body. To exercise that right, they need your help to understand the situation as much as possible about their circumstances.

Ensure you do these things to reduce the risk of someone claiming they did not give informed consent:

  • Explain what will happen: Take the time to explain to your patient and their family as much as possible about the procedure. If they have questions, answer them.
  • Offer alternatives: Patients need to understand the pros and cons of each option.
  • Make clear the patient has a choice: Even if there are no viable alternatives, there is always the option to do nothing.
  • Discuss the risks: Nothing is risk-free. Be honest about the risks. However scary they may sound, you must help the patient understand any possible consequences of their decision. It is very much a case of “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
  • Get their signed consent: You must have permission. Otherwise, the patient could later accuse you of doing something against their will. The more specific your form, the better, it avoids someone alleging you did not mention something.
  • Make it clear there are no guarantees: It is worth emphasizing this to your patient by mentioning it on the consent form.

If someone alleges a lack of informed consent for medical procedures you undertook, seek legal help to defend you. Protecting your medical license is vital to your future.