Generally "consent" to a surgery means that you have given the doctor permission to perform the procedure. It does not necessarily have to be written down, but in most cases it is.It is legally required that the doctor get your consent before surgery is performed, otherwise the doctor might be liable for criminal battery. A related term, informed consent, relates to not only consenting to a surgical procedure, but also being fully aware of all the possible consequences of the procedure. Both are needed by a doctor in order to operate on you legally.
Certainly, you can take back your consent at any time prior to the surgery itself, assuming you are mentally and legally able to have consented in the first place. However, evenif the surgery is already over, and your consent was given, sometimes you can still take your consent back.
There are many factors that the courts may consider when evaluating whether you truly gave your consent to surgery. These include being:
- Mentally ill or disabled
- A minor
- Under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication
- In labor
- Under great stress or in pain at the time of consent
- In a semi-conscious state
All of these are factors that have an effect on whether your consent was fully voluntary when you gave it. If you gave consent under one of these conditions, and the doctor should have realized it, he or she might be liable for medical malpractice.
The only instance when surgery without consent is allowed is when there is already consent for another procedure and there is an emergency life-threatening situation. Usually a doctor gets consent to perform a routine surgical procedure. However, during the surgery she discovers a life threatening condition that if not immediately fixed would kill the patient immediately.
The laws vary state to state, but the general rule is that a doctor is only allowed to perform surgery in addition to the one you consented to if the additional medical problem can be considered an emergency life-threatening situation.
If a doctor has performed surgery on you without your consent and it was not an emergency life-threatening situation, he or she may be held liable for any injury you suffered.
As you can see, the laws concerning medical consent are full of gray areas that an experienced malpractice lawyer will help you navigate. Bringing a lawsuit against your doctor or hospital is a very complicated process, so it is important that you completely understand your rights and options.
If you have been the victim of an unnecessary surgery or a surgery performed without consent, you should contact a personal injury attorney at once to learn how to best recover for the damages you suffered.