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What constitutes informed consent?

As a patient, you have a legal right to decide what is done with your body, as explained by Temple Health. This means that before your Massachusetts physician implements a treatment plan, he or she must obtain informed consent.

In general, before you provide consent for any procedure, your physician should present certain information, such as the diagnosis and the nature of the recommended treatment. You also need to know the following:

  • The benefits and risks of the proposed treatment
  • The consequences of not pursuing treatment
  • The possible alternative methods of treatment
  • The pros and cons of these alternatives

In short, your physician should provide—in language you can understand—enough information to enable you to make a decision about treatment. If you have questions, you also should receive an opportunity to ask them.

There are state-by-state variations in the requirements regarding obtaining legal consent, and these requirements may be interpreted differently by different hospitals. In addition, there are details that remain unspecified in informed consent regulations, such as how much information your physician must provide about alternative treatments and possible risks.

A boilerplate consent form may contain too little information, but an overly complicated form listing all possible considerations in minute detail may not be a workable solution either, especially if understanding such information would require you to have an extensive background in medicine. Generally, failures to obtain informed consent arise from this question about how much you, the patient, need to know.

It is worth noting that certain circumstances may mitigate the need to obtain standard informed consent. For instance, your physician’s actions are protected in emergency scenarios.

This information is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to serve as expert legal advice.

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