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Maryland Court Discusses Causation in Informed Consent Claims

Doctors have an obligation to thoroughly advise their patients of the risks and benefits of any examination or procedure so that the patients can make educated decisions regarding whether to proceed with the suggested care. Physicians that neglect to adequately advise their patients prior to rendering treatment may be held liable for failing to obtain informed consent, but only if their shortcomings proximately cause their patients to suffer harm. The evidence needed to establish causation was discussed in a recent Maryland opinion, in a case in which the doctor’s behavior was so egregious the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff as a matter of law. If you sustained damages due to your doctor’s communication errors, you could be owed compensation, and it is advisable to speak to a skillful Maryland medical malpractice lawyer regarding your rights.

The Patient’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff sought care from a urologist who had previously treated her due to kidney stones. The physician was unavailable, so his partner, the defendant, examined the plaintiff. As part of the examination, the defendant touched the plaintiff’s breasts and performed invasive digital pelvic and rectal examinations. The plaintiff felt defiled and subsequently developed PTSD and anxiety due to the examination.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant alleging numerous claims, including failure to obtain informed consent. Following discovery, the court granted summary judgment on the plaintiff’s informed consent claim, but the parties proceeded to trial on the issue of damages. Contrary to the trial court ruling, the jury found that the lack of informed consent did not damage the plaintiff and ruled in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff then appealed.

Proving Causation in Lack of Informed Consent Claims

On appeal, the court found that the trial court erred in permitting the jury to decide issues of causation, as they were already resolved by the order granting summary judgment. The court explained that to establish proximate cause in a failure to obtain informed consent claim, a plaintiff must establish via a preponderance of the evidence that he or she would not have consented to the proposed treatment if the doctor had made an adequate and full disclosure at the time consent was granted.

Further, the plaintiff must not only prove that he or she would not have granted such consent but that a reasonable person in the same situation would not have consented either. In the subject case, the court noted that the trial court expressly found that if the plaintiff had been told that the examination was not medically necessary, she would have declined to allow the doctor to conduct it. Thus, the court found that the trial court erred in submitting the issue of causation to the jury.

Speak to a Trusted Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doctors must fully advise their patients of the pros and cons of proposed care, and if they do not, they may be deemed liable for any harm their patients suffer. If you were injured by a physician communication error, such as the failure to obtain your informed consent, it is in your best interest to speak to a lawyer about your options. The trusted Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at helping injured patients in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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