Informed Consent

“Consent Forms do not equate to malpractice shields.”

A consent form does not give the dentist a license to commit malpractice. A consent form does not relieve the dentist from the duty to meet the standard of care.

Dentists, as are other health care professionals, are required to disclose material information to obtain a patient’s consent to treatment. Consent or refusal to accept care is a patient’s choice that should be freely exercised.

For there to have been true informed consent, the patient must know, appreciate and understand all material information and voluntarily consent. True consent is an informed excercise of choice, entailing an opportunity to evaluate the options, risks and alternatives to treatment, including, if applicable, the option of no treatment and/or the option to obtain treatment from a specialist.

Form agreements used by the medical community are often not adequate in terms of an “informed consent” as is required by most states. Patients can often pursue a claim against their dentist despite their signing of a consent form if for example, they were not properly informed of their options and the risks inherent to the treatment they are to receive.

Courts are often hesitant to bind injured patients to the terms of the signed release forms as said forms can be viewed as unconscionable contracts of adhesion. Moreover, often said forms are used by health care providers as a symbolic custom rather than a true means of obtaining “informed consent”.

Where the physician (or dentist) obtains consent for one type of treatment or operation and subsequently renders substantially different treatment or performs a substantially different operation, it may be found to be a battery. In cases where a dentist is held liable for battery, punitive damages may also be awarded to an injured patient.

Before providing treatment, a dental health care professional must obtain informed consent from the patient. However, even in instances where there was informed consent, a dentist may still be liable. The key issue is whether the resulting injury was the result of an inherent risk of the procedure or whether it was the result of negligence or treatment that fell below the standard of care.

The exclusive decision to consent or to refuse treatment is a patient’s. In obtaining such consent from a patient, a dentist must disclose material facts in lay terms which the patient understands that would lead a reasonably prudent person to make an informed decision in regards to such professional care.