Is Your Doctor Telling You Everything?
August 9, 2012 by Sam Rolley
Next time your doctor proposes a treatment for a health issue you are coping with, be sure that he explains all of the possible risks associated with the procedure.
Doctors are expected to advise and empower patients to make choices about procedures by sharing all information that may affect treatment decisions, including risks of adverse outcomes. Researchers from Australia and the U.S. led by David Studdert from the University of Melbourne found, however, that doctors, notably surgeons, often fail to mention certain risks associated with medical procedures.
The researchers analyzed 481malpractice claims and patient complaints involving allegations of failures in the process of obtaining informed consent before operations. They discovered that 9 percent of the cases studied were disputed duty cases—meaning, they involved head-to-head disagreements over whether a particular risk should have been disclosed before treatment. Two-thirds of these disputed duty cases involved surgeries. In most cases, lack of information had quality of life implications for patients, including chronic pain and the need for re-operation.
The researchers said the most common reasons doctors gave for not telling patients about particular risks were that they considered such risks too rare to warrant discussion or the risk was covered by another risk that was discussed.