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What to know about informed consent

When a civil suit alleges medical malpractice in North Carolina, a health care provider is liable for damages when evidence shows that the defendant did not act in accordance with the standards of practice that others in the same profession would use. Patients may claim negligence occurred due to an informed consent error.

If a person cannot consent to medical treatment, a guardian with a power of attorney, a spouse, parents or children who are older than 18 or siblings older than 18 can make decisions in the person's place. If multiple people that match this criteria are available, there is a hierarchy for who is most capable of providing consent. Someone who has an established relationship with a patient could also be trusted to relay a patient's wishes.

When no one is available to speak for a patient, an attending physician can provide treatment after receiving confirmation from another physician about how to proceed in a situation. However, a physician does not need a second opinion when taking the time to get confirmation would worsen a patient's condition or be life threatening.

A court must rule in favor of a health care provider when those with similar training and experiences would have made the same decision even without informed consent. Damages are also not given when a reasonable person who is in the same circumstances or given the same information would agree to the same treatment.

Those with health problems may find their condition worsening and could suffer new injuries after mistakes occur during surgery or with a treatment plan. When medical negligence takes place, one may be able to seek compensation from those responsible. This could help with old and new medical expenses, and one might even be entitled to damages for pain and suffering.

Source: NC General Statutes, " 90-21.13. Informed consent to health care treatment or procedure.", November 21, 2014

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