Disclosure of Material Risks For Informed Consent Before Surgery

Material Risks

While Illinois does not have any published opinions addressing whether or not a physician’s level of experience is a material risk requiring disclosure, the state’s approach to informed consent indicates that doctors are not required to disclose their inexperience to patients who are preparing to undergo surgery. Instead, material risks are those things that are associated with the surgery itself, including the potential complications of the procedure. These may include the potential complications from anesthesia, blood loss, and infections.

Reasonable Physician Standard

In order to determine whether or not a patient was adequately informed about the material risks of a surgical procedure, the courts apply the reasonable physician standard. Under this, the courts look at what a similarly situated doctor in the same area would reasonably disclose to a patient. This means that what is important is what similar doctors in similar situations normally disclose to patients. This differs from the reasonable patient standard. Under that standard, courts look at what information a similarly situated patient would expect to be disclosed in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with a surgery. This approach is not followed in Illinois, however.

Patients who are not adequately informed of the material risks associated with their procedures may have valid grounds to file medical malpractice lawsuits against their doctors. In order to determine whether or not the consent that was provided was reasonable, the injured patients may need to have medical experts review the consent that was provided. Medical malpractice lawyers often work with experts to help make these types of determinations about the physician’s duty of care.