As this blog has discussed, doctors in this state owe Kentuckians several important duties. For one, they must diagnose their patients accurately or, at a minimum, follow the right process for ensuring their diagnoses are correct as often as possible.
Obviously, when they do go about treating their patient, they must perform their procedures correctly, whether it is simply a matter of prescribing the right medicine or as complex as a complicated brain surgery.
However, one duty a doctor has, but which may be often overlooked, is the duty to communicate with their patient both about the nature of the treatment they are proposing as well as the available alternatives, including the option of doing nothing at all.
The nuances of what a doctor should communicate are best discussed with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, but the general principle is that a patient needs to be aware of what could potentially go wrong and then assume that risk for themselves.
The idea is that a patient has the right to know what a doctor is doing and why and, perhaps most importantly, what the risks and alternatives to the doctor’s preferred course of action are. After all, any medical procedure has some degree of risk no matter how well the doctor performs it, and it must be the patient’s decision to take on those risks.
This is the concept of “informed consent,” and when a doctor does not fulfill this important duty, he or she may face a medical malpractice lawsuit after a bad outcome for his or her patient. This is true even if the doctor ultimately made the right diagnosis and made the right choice of treatment. It is also true if the doctor performed the procedure correctly or even to perfection.