Study finds informed consent failures result in most negligence claims

Date: May 20, 2016


The Medical Journal of Australia has pinpointed some of the root causes of medical negligence mistakes that continue to harm patients.

The 2011 study by five research fellows and medical practitioners aimed to work out the characteristics, frequency and outcomes of disputes over informed consent resulting in medical negligence claims.

First, the conclusion

The study found that typical disputes over informed consent disproportionately result from cosmetic surgery operations. In these types of disputes, plaintiffs alleged that the complications they later experienced were not properly disclosed to them.

What kind of negligence is most common?

Deficiencies in the informed consent process 57 per cent of negligence claims were found to be made against plastic surgeons. Their dispute rates was more than twice that of other specialty medical practitioners. Procedures on reproductive organs, procedures on facial features excluding eyes, prescription medications, eye surgery and breast surgery accounted for almost half of medical negligence cases.

Specifically how did surgeons fail to inform patients about likely complications?

In 71 per cent of cases, a complication of treatment that had not been fully understood – or not even mentioned at all – later materialised. The next most common allegation was that the scope of consent had been exceeded. Another complaint was that the risk the procedure would result in no benefit had not been mentioned

Another common complaint was the process through which consent was obtained, with allegations that surgeons frequently made patients feel rushed to consent, pressured to proceed, or the language in which the consent was informed was difficult to understand. Lastly, many patients launched medical negligence claims because they were unaware of alternative treatment options.

Informed consent is non-negotiable

It’s not okay for surgeons who proceed with an operation without explaining consent, and patients who have not been respectfully given the time or the advice to make consent have a right to redress when they are injured.

In our country a patient may be able to claim compensation based on medical negligence when they have been injured as a result of the negligent actions of a medical practitioner. The level and nature of the compensation will depend on the particular factors of each case. It may be possible to be compensated for the costs of past and future care for injuries, economic loss such as loss of salary or wages, and non-economic loss. To learn more about this kind of claim and for advice about seeking compensation, get in touch with New South Wales’s expert medical negligence lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.