What Georgia Patients Should Know about Informed Consent to Medical Treatment


March 13, 2013

When patients entrust medical professionals like general practitioners, surgeons, and others with their treatment, those undergoing medical evaluation and treatment maintain their right to be informed by their physician of the nature of potential risks and other relevant information.

Georgia law on informed consent governs the information that doctors are required to provide to patients prior to administering medical care and imposes liability for failure to provide such information.

While Georgia does recognize the right of a patient to informed consent, it only provides for recovery of damages if the failure to give information about the treatment or medical procedure causes a physical or emotional injury. Although some states consider the mere violation of a patient's self-determination as a compensable injury, Georgia law requires an actual adverse physical or emotional harm. If a doctor performs spinal surgery and fails to warn of a risk of paralysis, the patient will not have a legal claim simply because the surgeon did not disclose the risk. However, the patient may have a legal cause of action against the surgeon if the patient actually suffers paralysis.

There are specific types of information that medical professionals are required to provide to patients so that they can make an informed decision about whether to agree to a medical treatment. This medical information includes:

  • Prognosis if patient forgoes the procedure or treatment
  • Diagnosis of the medical condition
  • Recommended course of treatment or therapy
  • Available alternate treatments and their comparable benefits and risks

Because the average person may not comprehend medical terminology, the discussion of these types of issues by a medical professional should be in understandable layperson terms. The information also must be conveyed in a way that compensates for language barriers.

There are exceptions to the requirement that patients provide informed consent that include a patient voluntarily waiving his or her right to critical information about a course of medical treatment. When a physician is rendering emergency medical care, the doctor also is not required to wait until informed consent can be obtained. Another exception to the informed consent requirement is the therapeutic exception. This exception applies when providing information about treatment options and risks could cause significant harm to the patient. A final exception is patient waiver. The patient may simply not want to know all of the upsetting details and intentionally waive the right to such information. Waiver is only a valid defense to lack of informed consent in this situation if the patient was clearly made aware of his or her right to this information and executed a general consent form authorizing the physician to perform any procedures the doctor considers appropriate.

If you or someone close to you has suffered serious injury because of medical errors or lack of informed consent, you may have a right to bring medical malpractice action seeking financial compensation. The Georgia personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.