How Informed Consent Affects Your Georgia Medical Malpractice Case

In general, doctors cannot operate on you or perform medical procedures on your children without getting your informed consent. That consent is only useful if you know all the facts surrounding the medical treatment. That is why before any major medical procedure, Georgia law requires that your doctor give you the proper information.

What is informed consent?

In a nutshell, informed consent is a legal principal that requires doctors to disclose the nature and purpose of major medical procedures, the risk associated with those procedures, and the reasonable alternatives. Georgia law describes exactly when informed consent is mandatory, what must be included in the informed consent, and who can give such consent.

This is important because if you or a loved one undergoes a medical procedure such as surgery, you want to be in the best possible position to make important medical decisions. If you are not aware of the potentially devastating risks of a certain medical procedure or do not know of any alternatives, you may not make the best or safest decision. 

The law requires physicians and healthcare professionals to tell patients or their guardians all the important information about medical procedures that contain a material risk of harm to the patient. If you were hurt in a procedure and you believe it was due to a lack of necessary information, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation under Georgia medical malpractice law.

For help with an informed consent medical malpractice claim, give Brauns Law a call.

When does Georgia law require informed consent?

Georgia law requires informed consent when “any person:

  • undergoes any surgical procedure under general anesthesia, spinal anesthesia, or major regional anesthesia, or
  • who undergoes an amniocentesis diagnostic procedure or a diagnostic procedure which involves the intravenous or intraductal injection of a contrast material” [O.C.G.A. § 31-9-6.1].

Informed consent is not mandatory in an emergency situation. For example if you are involved in an accident  and are unconscious, the law does not require the doctors to wait until you wake up and consent to perform emergency surgery. In addition, there is no need for informed consent if the surgery or diagnostic procedure is generally recognized by reasonably prudent doctors to not pose a material risk to the patient. 

Also, Georgia law does not require doctors to get informed consent for procedures that are not known to be needed at the time consent was obtained and the patient consented to allow the doctor to make decisions about possible procedures that could be required [O.C.G.A. § 31-9-6.1(e)].

What constitutes informed consent?

In order for a patient to be able to give informed consent, doctors must give the patient the following information:

  1. A diagnosis of the patient’s condition
  2. The purpose of the procedure
  3. The material risks of: “infection, allergic reaction, severe loss of blood, loss or loss of function of any limb or organ, paralysis or partial paralysis, paraplegia or quadriplegia, disfiguring scar, brain damage, cardiac arrest or death,” which if disclosed to a reasonably prudent patient would cause the person to decline the treatment.
  4. Likelihood of success
  5. Practical recognized and generally accepted alternatives of the procedure
  6. The prognosis of the condition if the patient declines the procedure

Doctors usually give the above information in writing, but they do not always have to do so in this method. The law allows the doctors to give information through:

  • Video tapes
  • Audio tapes
  • Pamphlets
  • Booklets
  • Other means of communication
  • Conversations with other medical personnel [O.C.G.A. § 31-9-6.1(c)]

How do the courts deem I gave consent?

Patients often give informed consent in writing. If doctors included all the necessary information about the procedure in a form that you signed, the law will presume that you gave informed consent. This means that it is up to you to prove that you did not give it.

Who can give consent?

Any competent adult can give informed consent for procedures for themselves. In addition, anyone given authority in advance by a living will, advance directive for health care or durable power of attorney for health care can give consent [O.C.G.A. § 31-9-2(a)].

If you are unable to give consent and have not set up an advance directive, certain relatives are legally able to give consent on your behalf.

  • Your spouse
  • If your spouse is unavailable, your parents or guardian
  • If your parents are available, an adult child

In the absence of family, even an adult friend may give consent if that person is generally familiar with the patient’s health care views and desires and who is willing and able to become involved in the patient’s health care.

What if my doctor did not tell me everything?

First, it is important to note that if the procedure did not injure you (even if the doctor did not tell you everything), you do not have a case.

Now, if your doctor did not tell you the necessary information about your procedure and it led to your injury, it is important that you seek legal help immediately. While Georgia law does not have a separate cause of action for failure to obtain informed consent, your doctor’s failure to advise you of the risks of a medical procedure may constitute medical malpractice.

To have a valid informed consent medical malpractice case, you must be able to prove that:

  1. Your injury resulted from the procedure
  2. The medical professional did not disclose necessary information about the risks of the procedure
  3. You would have declined the procedure had the medical professional informed you of the risks or given you an alternative [O.C.G.A.§ 31-9-6.1(d)]

If you or a loved one suffered injury during a medical procedure and you believe it was the result of a lack of information or you did not give informed consent, you may have a medical malpractice case. For help with your Georgia malpractice case, give a medical malpractice attorney from Brauns Law a call.

You only have two years to file a medical malpractice case; get started today. Contact David Brauns as soon as possible at 404-418-8244.