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Consent and Medical Treatment

The obtaining of adequate consent is becoming increasingly important in the clinical world.

Proper consent should only be deemed to have been obtained once a patient understands the risks associated with a particular treatment. Until recently that consent simply had to have been obtained in a manner that accorded with a reasonable body of medical practitioners. This meant that even if treatment posed a real risk, the doctor did not necessarily have to advise a patient of this risk if a reasonable body of his peers would have done the same.

This approach changed last year, following the case of Montgomery. Now doctors must advise on the risks a reasonable patient, in that patient's particular position, might wish to know. In Montgomery a diabetic pregnant woman was not warned that she was at a 10% risk of suffering a very serious complication during child birth; shoulder dystocia. Her questions about whether any complications would arise were not answered and dismissed as anxiety. She was not offered a caesarean section as the obstetrician thought she would have opted for a C-section.

Mrs Montgomery therefore underwent a vaginal delivery and her baby was left with severe disabilities after the 10% risk of shoulder dystocia was tragically realised. The case was clear, if she was warned Mrs Montgomery would have undergone a C-section and thus avoided the problems that transpired. Mrs Montgomery's case was unsuccessful in the first instance and on first appeal. The case was then further appealed to the Supreme Court and a panel of 7 judges found in Mrs Montgomery's favour and instituted the change on consent.

What this now means is that the provision of advice and warnings to patients before a procedure must be tailored to that individual. They must be told what a reasonable person in their position might want to know. If, having been provided with this advice, you would have decided against having treatment and that risk transpired you may have a claim for clinical negligence.

If you have suffered an unexpected complication following a medical procedure that you were not warned about or advised upon, contact one of our team today to discuss your options in making a claim.