In a case decided in June of 2014 described as “landmark,” the Washington Supreme Court held in favor of a physician as to claims of lack of informed consent.
Generally, informed consent addresses the need for a physician to advise the patient of the risks, benefits and alternatives to certain treatment or procedures for a medical condition before the care is undertaken. The usual standard is then that a reasonably prudent patient under similar circumstances would not have consented to the treatment if so informed.
The subject medical care concerned a woman who had an initial positive lab test finding for a yeast infection. However, because the woman was feeling better, her physician believed the lab result was a false-positive. Two days later, more precise testing resulted in confirming the reliability of the original test and noting a potentially fatal type of infection in the patient’s blood. The patient became worse, was hospitalized and died of kidney failure. The physician was sued for failing to obtain informed consent due to not providing the potential for the more fatal lab result and associated treatment options.
After the jury ruled in favor of the physician, on appeal the Washington Supreme Court held that “a health care provider who believes the patient does not have a particular disease cannot be expected to inform the patient about the disease or possible treatments for it.” Or, you don’t have to advise about things you don’t think are present, even though they may be.