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A lack of 'informed refusal' can be malpractice

You've probably heard that a physician or surgeon's failure to get a patient's informed consent before a procedure is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit when something goes wrong with a treatment or procedure -- but what about times when a physician fails to get a patient's informed refusal?

Informed consent and informed refusal are flip sides of the same coin. They serve the exact same purpose: They both seek to document the fact that the physician or surgeon took the time to explain to the patient his or her medical options.

What's the difference? Informed consent shows that the patient understood the risks that are inherent with any particular medical procedure. For example, if a patient was going to have a tumor removed under general anesthesia, there's always a risk that the patient will have a bad reaction to the anesthesia and die. It's generally a remote risk -- but it is there.

Informed refusal shows that the patient understood what risks or consequences he or she faced by not having the treatment or procedure done. For example, take the same example used above. Imagine the patient got scared hearing about the potential dangers of the surgery and opted against it. The physician never told the patient that refusing the surgery would likely mean certain death if the tumor was cancerous. That means the patient made a medical decision without the benefit of the knowledge needed to make an informed refusal.

If you suffered severe health complications or a loved one died because of a physician's failure to provide all the information necessary to make a sound decision to accept or reject a specific treatment, test or procedure, it may be time to talk to a medical malpractice attorney.

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