When you sign a medical consent form, does it excuse the doctor's negligence or mistakes?

As an experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I meet with people practically every day who have been seriously injured as a result of poor medical care.

During these consultations, these new clients tell me about what happened to them, the pain and suffering that they have gone through, and how it has changed their lives.

Every so often, one of them will almost express a guilty feeling about consulting a lawyer. Why? Because a family member or friend reminded them that they signed a consent form before having the surgery or medical care.

By signing a medical consent form, do you automatically give up the right to sue if the doctor or hospital is negligent? No!

No matter how closely you read the consent form and how well you understand the complex medical terminology that it contains, signing a consent form never means that you are giving permission to a doctor, hospital, or nurse to make mistakes or provide you with substandard, negligent healthcare.

What informed consent is

In Texas, the law defines informed consent as: The permission given by a patient to perform a medical treatment or surgical procedure after the patient has been advised of the risks or hazards that could influence a reasonable person in deciding whether or not to give permission.  In order for the patient to make an informed decision about whether to give his or her permission, the patient needs information about the treatment or procedure and the risks associated with it.  Informed consent deals with the information provided to the patient and how it is provided when obtaining the patient’s permission to perform the treatment or procedure.

Informed consent should be an engaging process. By law, the doctor is responsible for the informed consent process and cannot delegate it to someone else. Practically speaking, though, quite often nurses participate in at least part of it.

You should never allow the consent process just to be a process of signing some documents without having them explained in simple English.

Make sure that your doctor discusses things with you in language you understand. You should listen and definitely ask questions. Your doctor should talk about these things:

—The nature and type of health care, procedure, or surgery

—The alternative options, including doing nothing

—The possible need for multiple procedures

—The possible benefits of the surgery

—The possible risks or complications from the surgery

You may also consider asking questions like these:

—How many times have you done this exact procedure or treatment?

—How often have you had patients who had the bad outcomes listed on the consent form?

—Are the problems on the consent form temporary or permanent?

—What additional treatment will you need if you experience one of the problems on the consent form?

What informed consent is not

When you sign a consent form, you are agreeing to allow the doctor and health care providers to proceed in treating you. You are indicating that you know that there are risks to going forward with the surgery or treatment, even with proper care.

You are not agreeing, though, for the doctor and other health care providers to be “off the hook” if they make mistakes, or treat you in a manner that is below the standard of care or negligent.

What are your options if something goes wrong?

First, prepare yourself. Your doctors and nurses, and sometimes well-meaning family and friends may tell you that you have no options because you signed a consent form. Now you know that such statements are incorrect.

Second, ask your doctor for an explanation of what went wrong. Was it an equipment failure or a medication problem? If the doctor says it is a “known complication,” then he or she is suggesting that it is one of those things on the consent form that can sometimes happen, even with proper care. That may be the case, but it is also possible that your problem was caused by a mistake of the doctor, nurse, or pharmacy.

If you think negligence was involved, then you should consider contacting a medical malpractice lawyer quickly. Tthere are legal time limits during which an investigation must be done and a suit must be filed. Call 281-580-8800 for a free consultation with an experienced medical negligence attorney at Painter Law Firm.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.