Is It Malpractice to Withhold Information about Treatment Options?
Patients must place their complete trust in their medical professionals. Conversely, it is also expected that a medical professional will educate his/her patient about the relevant medical conditions affecting him/her and the available treatment options. In most cases, medical professionals are thorough in their analysis and typically inform the patient about all treatment options. Nevertheless, the failure to do so may constitute medical malpractice, and necessitate retaining the services of an attorney experienced in medical malpractice to ensure that the costs associated with any resulting injuries are compensated. Recently, a West Palm Beach woman underwent a surgery in which her kidney was unnecessarily removed because the attendant physician assumed it to be a gynecologic malignancy, lymphoma and/or other metastatic disease. It was only a few days later that a medical professional realized the mass was, in fact, the woman’s fully-functional kidney, which was somehow located in her pelvic region. The lawsuit asserts that the woman was not consulted about the removal, nor was given options for treatment. A discussion of the general rules governing medical malpractice in Florida, as well as some specific issues related to informed consent, will follow below.
Medical Malpractice in Florida
Medical malpractice is a specialized form negligence. Under this rule, in order to be successful in a medical malpractice matter, an injured individual must prove the following elements against a medical professional:
- The attending medical professional was subject to a professional standard of care to provide competent medical services at the level expected of a doctor practicing in the relevant area of medicine;
- The attending medical professional did not perform according to the applicable standard of care;
- As a result of the attending medical professional’s failure to perform, the individual was injured; and
- The individual’s injuries are quantifiable so that damages can be awarded.
The Principle of Informed Consent
Medical procedures are not small events in a person’s life, and in order to give patients freedom of choice when they undergo treatment, the medical professional has a duty to disclose the following information:
- The proposed medical treatment;
- The risks involved with the treatment;
- The risks of not receiving the treatment;
- The procedure’s typical success rate; and
- Any alternative treatments for the condition, and the potential risks and benefits of those procedures.
Failure to disclose this information may subject the medical professional to medical malpractice liability, as it robs the patient of the ability to provide an informed consent to the procedure. However, there are exceptions to the requirement to provide informed consent, such as:
- In the instance of a life-saving or emergency surgery; or
- If the medical professional can prove the patient would have assented to the treatment if he/she had been informed of all necessary information.
Further, certain patients, such as those who cannot be trusted to act in their own best interests, may not be required to be given all information listed above, but rather only general information about the procedure the medical professional wishes to perform. Nevertheless, the informed consent process is typically a part of the general standard of care of a medical professional, and the failure to provide it, if it leads to injury, can lead to liability for medical malpractice.
Seek Legal Advice
If you were injured as the result of undergoing a medical procedure, and believe that information about treatment options was withheld from you, contact the attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We have experience in medical malpractice law, including issues of informed consent. After reviewing the circumstances to determine whether a claim for medical malpractice can be made, we will work to build a case to obtain the appropriate relief for your injuries. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.