Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Informed Consent and COVID-19

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jun 01, 2020 | 0 Comments

The coronavirus epidemic has had a major impact on day-to-day life.  There is still a lot of uncertainty going forward as people try to return to normal life. Any fact-to-face interaction can present a possible risk of transmission of COVID-19, including doctor visits, surgery, or mental health counseling. 

When healthcare professionals do not inform patients of the possible risks of treatment, they may be failing to obtain informed consent. Lack of informed consent can be a basis for a medical malpractice case. If you suffered an injury that your doctor did not warn you about, you may be able to recover damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

Risks Associated With COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of COVID-19 include: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

However, serious cases may cause permanent injury or even death. With so much at stake for individuals at risk of contracting COVID-19, health care professionals should warn patients about the risks of contracting the virus through healthcare visits.  

Contracting COVID-19 During a Doctor's Office Visit

Hospitals, clinics, and the doctor's office are all places where otherwise healthy people can contract COVID-19 from a one-time visit. The virus is transmittable person-to-person, through close contact, or through respiratory droplets. The virus can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. 

Patients can be infected while visiting the doctor if anyone else in the office had COVID-19, including: 

  • Doctor
  • Other patients
  • Support staff
  • Janitorial staff
  • Pharmaceutical representatives
  • Or anyone else who visited the office.

Some healthcare may be necessary in-person. Patients should not avoid seeking out medical care but doctors and hospitals should prepare patients for the possibility of infection. 

Guidance on Informed Consent for COVID-19

Some professional associations are providing members with sample informed consent clauses to give to patients. These associations understand the importance of giving informed consent and are aware of the potential for medical malpractice claims for doctors who do not properly warn patients about the risks of treatment. 

The American Psychological Association created a sample informed consent form for psychologists who are providing face-to-face services. The form indicates the following for risks of opting for in-person services: 

“You understand that by coming to the office, you are assuming the risk of exposure to the coronavirus (or other public health risk). This risk may increase if you travel by public transportation, cab, or ridesharing service.”

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has provided a similar informed consent document for reference and general guidance, including the statement, “I understand there is an inherent risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 by virtue of proceeding with this elective treatment/procedure/surgery.” 

You Deserve to Know the Risks Involved in Any Medical Procedure

As a patient, you deserve to know the risks involved in any medical procedure so that you can make an informed decision about whether to go forward with treatment. Some doctors fail to provide full and accurate information about the risks involved, which could put the patient at risk of injury. 

QUESTIONS ABOUT A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE? WE CAN HELP

If you believe that you may be the victim of medical malpractice in the Philadelphia area, the Gilman & Bedigian legal team can answer your questions and concerns. We're committed to educating patients and families who have been harmed by medical malpractice to understand their legal rights and help obtain compensation. To speak with a member of our personal injury team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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