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Informed consent and emergency situations

Informed consent is the duty of an Ohio physician to communicate to a patient everything that patient needs to know about a medical treatment, including risks and alternative treatments, so the patient may best decide how to proceed. Informed consent is vital and must be sought by medical professionals, with the only exceptions pertaining to a life-threatening emergency where a person may not be able to grant consent to treatment.

FindLaw explains that informed consent depends on the competency of the patient. The patient must possess the mental capacity to make decisions on his or her own behalf. Some people, however, are not deemed competent under law to make such choices. In those cases, a surrogate must make the medical decisions instead. Minors and mentally impaired individuals generally need surrogates.

However, obtaining informed consent may not be possible in emergency situations. The American Medical Association explains that in some scenarios, people who are severely injured or in dire states of health cannot be informed about medical treatments and are unable to communicate with physicians, nurses, or a trauma team. Also, a surrogate for the patient might not be present to talk to medical staff and grant permission to initiate treatment.

For example, if you are riding a motorcycle and get into an accident, you might be rendered unconscious and cannot communicate. A medical team that has arrived to treat you must act at once to preserve your life. Even if you are conscious and aware, time may be of the essence. The emergency team must be able to act or you could face permanent disability or death. Once the emergency is over and you are stabilized, your medical professionals should give you all the information you need pertaining to your treatment.

In the event a physician has sidestepped informed consent in a nonemergency situation, serious legal consequences can result. Depriving you of information that you need to make decisions regarding your medical treatment is a violation of trust between you and your physician and should not be taken lightly. The offending physician might be guilty of a crime such as battery, or at least, the physician could be subject to a civil suit for gross negligence.

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