What does informed consent mean for ACT medical negligence claims?

Published 23 Oct 2017

Medical practitioners must obtain informed consent from patients before going ahead with treatments in the ACT, but what does this mean?

Informed consent is when you formally acknowledge that you have been warned of the potential risks of treatment and are agreeing to proceed. This may sound like a simple process, but some medical negligence claims allege that plaintiffs were not adequately told of the potential repercussions of treatments.

A study of medical negligence claims published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealed that 3.4 per cent of cases involved informed consent issues.

Informed consent also featured in 11.5 per cent of conciliated complaints, according to the research, which covered grievances lodged with the Office of the Health Services Commissioner of Victoria between 2002 and 2008.

What should I expect from my doctor?

ACT Health outlines four crucial elements of informed consent:

  1. Your health professional should discuss all available treatment options;
  2. You must decide whether or not you undergo treatment;
  3. Your doctor should obtain consent for every episode of your treatment; and
  4. A formal record should be made when you accept or refuse treatment.

You have the right to ask for a second opinion from another medical practitioner, and you can choose to withdraw or provide consent at any time, even if this contradicts a previous decision.

One of the most common areas of dispute for informed consent cases is when English isn’t the patient’s first language. You should therefore seek the services of a professional interpreter if you do not understand your treatment options.

I did not provide informed consent. What do I do?

If you do not believe you were adequately informed of the risks of treatment, and you subsequently suffer injuries or illnesses as a result, you may be entitled to compensation through a medical negligence claim.

These cases can be tricky to prove, as consent doesn’t necessarily have to be written. Consent can be provided verbally or implied, such as when you offer your arm to a doctor so they can take a blood sample.

You should therefore discuss your experiences with expert medical negligence lawyers in the ACT to ensure you have the best chance of receiving compensation.

Please contact a member of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for more information.