Informed Consent: Physicians Must Discuss Reasonable Alternatives, Even If Not Recommended

August 3, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Health System


The doctrine of informed consent applies equally to invasive and noninvasive procedures and physicians must inform patients of medically reasonable alternatives to proposed treatment, even if the physician does not recommend those alternatives, held the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. The court overruled a lower court's grant of summary judgment to a defendant hospital and emergency physician. The patient had sought care at the defendant hospital's emergency department after she accidently swallowed a nail. An emergency physician ordered a radiograph, which confirmed the presence of a foreign body in her stomach. He advised the patient to "eat fiber and let the nail pass," return to the hospital if she experienced any problems, and follow up with her primary care physician in three days. After experiencing severe vomiting, the patient sought emergency care at a different hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery to remove the nail and required treatment for a perforated and infected bowel. She underwent subsequent surgeries to treat related complications.

The patient sued the first emergency physician and hospital for failing to provide informed consent. According to the suit, the physician failed to inform her both of the potential risks of letting the nail pass...

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