State Court Reverses Lower Court’s Decision, Ruling in Favor of Plaintiff in Informed Consent Case

The Supreme Court of Hawaii recently released an opinion addressing a physician’s duty to disclose information to a patient. The opinion stemmed from a 2008 incident when the plaintiff suffered a lower back injury at work and sought treatment from his primary care doctor. The plaintiff was given conservative treatment, and when that did not work, he was referred to a specialist. The plaintiff then signed a consent form to an operation on his lumbar disc, and the surgery was performed.

Medical DoctorThe language on the consent form indicated that he was informed of the significant risks and that the doctor did not promise a result or cure. There were additional forms that did not provide a place for the patient’s signature. Following the surgery, the plaintiff began suffering more pain and discomfort. He then consulted with another doctor, who stated that the surgery “should have been at a different level” and that his subsequent additional pain was because of the surgery.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against the doctor, alleging medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent. The defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming that the case should be decided in their favor because the plaintiff did not have medical expert testimony as to the materiality of the risk. The Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s judgment and found that the common law factors did not apply, the defendant was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and the lower court erred in their decision.

Importance and Application of Informed Consent in New Mexico Medical Malpractice Claims

Surgeries and procedures are often a very frightening prospect, since patients are usually in pain, scared, and uneducated in the intricacies of medical procedures. However, doctors are required to provide patients with enough information so that they understand what they are signing up to have done. In many cases, when a patient has suffered injuries after a medical procedure, a medical professional will use the signed informed consent documentation as a way to avoid liability. The signed forms are presented as a way to show the courts that the patient understood the risks of the procedure and voluntarily accepted them.

Under New Mexico law, a doctor has a duty to obtain this informed consent from either the patient or their representative. The informed consent should indicate that the patient or their representative is agreeing to the treatment or operation. Furthermore, in order for this informed consent to be valid, it has to be based upon “information which a reasonably prudent patient would need to know” when they are deciding whether or not to participate in the treatment or undergo a procedure.

It is important that patients understand the nuanced nature of the law and that the doctor does not have to provide the patient with every potential risk. However, the patient is often given additional paperwork that will outline those risks. Of course, by signing this form, the patient is not agreeing to be mistreated or given negligent care.

Have You Been Injured Due to Negligent Medical Care in New Mexico?

Informed consent and medical negligence laws can be extremely confusing, and it is important if you have suffered an injury because of medical malpractice that you contact an attorney. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in understanding your rights and remedies and zealously advocate on your behalf. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you suffered and possibly other damages. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Holds City Employee Not Entitled to Immunity in Premises Liability Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 7, 2016.

FDA Issues a “Black Box” Warning for Birth-Control Device Essure, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 17, 2016.