On June 11, 2015, a Georgia medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $1.57 million in favor of the plaintiff and against a gynecological surgeon and his medical practice. The verdict included $474,477.00 for the plaintiff’s past medical expenses and $1.1 million for her pain and suffering.
The 36-year-old plaintiff was having problems becoming pregnant and therefore agreed to have the defendant gynecological surgeon perform a laparoscopic surgical procedure intended to increase her chances of becoming pregnant. A known risk of the laparoscopic surgery was an unintentional and accidental perforation of the bowel. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, that risk of the surgery occurred, which the plaintiff did not contend in her Georgia medical malpractice lawsuit was medical negligence. However, the defendant failed to timely diagnose the bowel perforation despite subsequent signs and symptoms that should have put the defendant on notice that a bowel perforation occurred during the laparoscopic surgery.
On November 17, 2011, which was the day after the surgery, the plaintiff had a high fever, lower abdominal pain, and a racing heart rate that caused her to go to the local emergency room. The plaintiff had an elevated white blood cell count two days later, which is indicative of an infection, and also had an extended abdomen.
The following day, the plaintiff returned to the emergency room because she was vomiting, at which time the defendant admitted her to the hospital. Despite the plaintiff’s complaints since her surgery that indicated the possibility of a perforated bowel, the defendant did not order an abdominal CT scan for two more days. Once the CT scan was performed, the plaintiff’s bowel perforation was finally diagnosed. As a result, the plaintiff had to endure two additional surgeries to address the belatedly diagnosed bowel perforation.
All medical procedures are associated with some risks, ranging from very minor harm to death. The likelihood of the risks coming to fruition also range from extremely remote to more likely. The doctrine of informed consent requires that medical professionals who recommend medical procedures must provide the patient with all information material to the patient’s assessment about whether to submit to a particular therapy or procedure, disclosing the risks of the procedure that a reasonable person in the patient’s situation would consider significant in deciding whether to have the procedure.
The duty to provide information extends not only to a patient’s ailment or condition, but also to the nature of the proposed treatment, the probability of success of the contemplated therapy and its alternatives, and the risk of unfortunate consequences associated with such treatment: the doctrine of informed consent imposes on a physician, before she subjects her patient to medical treatment, the duty to explain the procedure to the patient and to warn him of any material risks or dangers inherent in or collateral to the therapy, so as to enable the patient to make an intelligent and informed choice about whether or not to undergo such treatment.
A health care provider breaches the duty to obtain effective consent to a treatment or procedure by failing to divulge information that would be material to the patient’s decision about whether to submit to, or to continue with, that treatment or procedure.
If you believe that a health care provider failed to obtain informed consent regarding medical treatment or a medical procedure, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your informed consent claim for you and represent you in such a claim, if appropriate.
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