Almost all medical treatment comes with some degree of risk. Prescription drugs can interact with one another and cause major medical issues. People can also have an allergic reaction to a medicine that they have never taken before. Surgeries and other physical treatments can result in infections and injuries. A physician has an obligation to help people by diagnosing what causes their symptoms and then helping them treat the symptoms to ideally resolve the underlying cause.
Unfortunately, doctors sometimes become quite complacent when recommending experimental, risky or frequently unsuccessful treatments to their patients. They fail to tell individuals about alternate options and about all of the risks involved in undergoing a specific recommended course of care.
If things go wrong later, those patients may feel like their doctors failed them by not providing accurate information about the possible risks. What should doctors share with patients about recommended treatment options?
Patients should know the risks, not just the potential rewards
Some physicians will sell surgery as the best option to resolve someone’s symptoms because it is the fastest and also the most expensive solution for someone’s condition. However, they could potentially resolve the same health concern with physical therapy or medication, and those less-invasive treatment options may also pose fewer risks.
Especially when the recommended course of treatment is invasive or experimental, patients have a right to know about the potential dangers they might face. Doctors should inform patients about:
- known side effects
- known contraindications
- failure rates
- common revisions required
- severe or extreme adverse outcomes
Additionally, doctors should provide at least basic information about alternate treatment options, especially if they are less invasive or have higher success rates.
Signing a form isn’t enough to educate someone
All too often, instead of actually communicating with a patient, doctors make big promises about their treatment recommendations and then have their patients sign informed consent documents essentially waving the right to hold the physician accountable should anything go wrong.
The patient assumes they have no reason for concern and that the treatment is likely to succeed. It may only be after something goes horribly wrong that they realize that other people had suffered the exact same medical consequences previously.
Pursuing a medical malpractice claim when a doctor misrepresents the risks or rewards of certain treatment and puts a patient at unnecessary risk could compensate someone for the harm they’ve suffered after a preventable poor reaction to medical treatment.