Hospital Consent Forms: Do you Sign Away Your Rights to Sue?

Most of us have been to the hospital for one reason or another. Maybe you went to the hospital because you needed emergency medical care. Perhaps you went to the hospital to have a routine surgery performed or to give birth. Regardless of why a person goes to the hospital, chances are they will be asked to sign a consent form at some point during their stay.

Reading, filling out, and signing consent forms can be mentally draining and is often confusing. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the medical terms or specialized language contained within the forms themselves. In fact, it is not uncommon for many people to speed through the paperwork without reviewing it at all and signing where they are told to sign. This is understandable, especially if a patient and their family member are worried about an injury, an illness, or an upcoming procedure.

However, some patients are injured or become ill due to the careless or negligent actions of a medical professional and end up wondering whether or not the paperwork they signed will impact their right to file a medical malpractice claim.

Consent forms and informed consent

Hospital consent forms are designed to ensure that a patient undergoing a medical procedure understands the various aspects of the procedure or treatment before it begins. Doctors are required to obtain informed consent from patients in most situations (with the exception of critical or emergency situations when informed consent is not possible).

Informed consent involves the treating doctor or surgeon explaining the procedure to the patient while also explaining all of the major associated risks to the procedure. Doctors are also required to discuss alternatives to the procedure with the patient and ask if the patient would like a more detailed explanation of any information they give.

Of course, problems arise in these situations because most patients lack medical training and may not understand every aspect of what has been explained to them or the risks involved with a particular procedure. Nonetheless, Oregon law requires that doctors and other medical professionals obtain informed consent from a patient prior to a medical procedure or treatment (ORS 677.097).

How will this impact a medical malpractice claim?

It is crucial for any person who consents to a medical procedure to understand that they are not consenting to medical carelessness or negligence. Just because a patient understands that there are risks and that they could become injured or ill due to a procedure does not shield the medical professional from mistakes they may make.

For example, a patient may consent to a risky kidney surgery, but this does not mean they will not be able to file a lawsuit against a surgeon if a surgical instrument is left inside their body after the procedure and causes a massive infection. For a more subtle example, suppose a person contracts an infection after surgery, something that is not uncommon after a surgical procedure. However, what happens if a doctor failed to administer the required necessary antibiotic after the procedure was completed?

In these two examples, it may be possible for a person to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Speak to an attorney about your case

If you or somebody you love has been injured or become ill after a medical procedure, you should speak to an attorney about your case. A Portland medical malpractice lawyer with experience handling these cases will be able to examine your situation and help you determine your next steps moving forward.