INFORMED CONSENT- THE MEMORY TRAP
You need surgery. You're worried. You have a consultation in the surgeon's office. You're by yourself. The surgeon tells you what he plans on doing. The medical terms are confusing. The procedure is difficult to understand. All you want to know is whether you'll be ok. The surgeon keeps reassuring you, and on the way home you do not even remember if he discussed any alternative treatment that you could have. You think he did, but you're just not sure.
You like the surgeon. He's confident. He's suave. He talks like he knows what he's doing. "OK, I'll have the surgery with him," you say to yourself.
AFTER THE SURGERY
You learn you had an unfortunate complication. The surgeon cut part of your anatomy that he should not have touched. You then needed corrective surgery and can expect to be in the hospital for another three weeks. The surgeon tells you this was a "recognized risk" of the surgery.
"But you didn't tell me this could happen," you protest. The surgeon insists that he told you very clearly on that first consultation exactly what the risks, benefits, options and alternatives were. "Don't you remember?" he asks. "You were sitting in my chair, you had on a black sweater and black pants. You had a long coat with you and you were visibly upset." In the back of your mind you have a vague memory of talking about risks, but you just do not remember.
Whenever possible, bring a family member to an important doctor's visit. It's natural to be worried and thinking about how your treatment will affect your health. Many of us forget to ask questions while we're in the doctor's office. How can you be expected to remember everything the doctor said while your mind was racing elsewhere?
If you bring a trusted family member, they can help you recall the conversation about any risks, benefits and alternatives that was discussed with the doctor. This way you'll be in a better position to make an informed decision about whether the proposed treatment is right for you.
Gerry Oginski is an experienced medical malpractice and personal injury trial attorney practicing law in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New York, Staten Island, Nassau & Suffolk. He has tirelessly represented injured victims in all types of medical malpractice, wrongful death and injury cases since 1988. As a solo practitioner he is able to devote 100% of his time to each individual client. A client is never a file number in his office.
For more information, call Gerry personally at 516-487-8207 for answers to your legal questions.
Also, go over to http://medicalmalpracticetutorial.blogspot.com for Gerry's free instructional videos on New York Medical Malpractice, Wrongful Death & Accident law.