informed consent doctrine

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The informed consent doctrine is a legal principle that holds healthcare providers accountable for ensuring that their patients are fully informed about any medical procedures or treatments before they agree to them. The idea behind this principle is that individuals have the right to make informed decisions about their own health and that these decisions should be based on accurate and complete information.

To put this into practice, healthcare providers typically obtain written informed consent from patients, that outlines the information that has been shared, the risks and benefits of the procedure, and the patient's agreement to proceed.

In a legal context, the informed consent doctrine can play a crucial role in determining whether a healthcare provider has acted negligently or failed to provide adequate care. 

For example, in the case of Canterbury v. Spence, the US Supreme Court established that healthcare providers have a duty to disclose material or relevant information to patients, even if the provider does not believe the information would impact the patient's decision.

Another case, Cobbs v. Grant, established that a physician has a duty to obtain informed consent by presenting information about a treatment or procedure in a way that is understandable to the patient. In this case, the court held that healthcare providers must make a "reasonable disclosure" of information and that the level of disclosure required may depend on the circumstances of each individual case.

[Last updated in February of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team