Most New Yorkers have probably heard the term "informed consent," but they may not be familiar with what it means to their health care. According to the American Medical Association, informed consent means that patients must be given information about a recommended treatment, its benefits and its side effects so they can make an educated choice about their medical care. However, standard practices for informed consent vary among states, and there are competing interests which may leave patients at a disadvantage.

The AMA says that doctors must provide certain information to patients about their condition and treatment before a plan of care is agreed to. This information includes the diagnosis, the purpose of the treatment, the risks and benefits of the treatment, available treatment alternatives and the pros and cons of refusing treatment. However, patients don't always know what questions to ask, doctors are often in a hurry and insurance companies only pay for certain treatments, which can all conspire to remove true choice from the patient.

People also need to understand that doctors do not need to obtain informed consent from patients who are incapacitated or who have impaired decision-making abilities, such as those with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. In most cases, children are also unable to give informed consent and must have medical decisions made by a parent or guardian. Adults who want to ensure their medical wishes are followed even when they are incapacitated must fill out a living will and an advance directive.

New York residents who feel they have been harmed by a negligent doctor could benefit by speaking to a lawyer. Legal counsel may recommend filing a medical malpractice lawsuit seeking applicable damages.

Source: Forbes, "Not All Doctors Get Informed Consent -- Here's Why It's Hurting Patients," Nichole Bazemore, March, 28, 2016


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