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By Jonathan Bechtel
Founding Partner

Informed consent is a cornerstone of medical ethics that requires patients of all types of medical providers to have sufficient information and understanding before making decisions about undergoing dental and medical procedures and treatments. Without obtaining a patient’s written informed consent, depending on the nature of the damages and losses and the circumstances which caused them, a patient could have the basis for a lawsuit sounding in lack of informed consent.  This type of claim often accompanies claims of medical malpractice, but not always.  If you’ve been injured during a dental procedure, Stanfield Bechtel Law can explore whether you have a legal claim against the dentist and facility that treated you sounding in dental malpractice, as well as lack of informed consent.

What is informed consent?

Regardless of how safe or routine a medical procedure is, there are almost always risks associated with a procedure or surgery.  It is critical that a patient agrees to the specific procedure or surgery being administered and part of this agreement is having knowledge of the procedure as well as the risks that are possible. Like all medicine, dentistry involves a number of steps circumstances, such as the use of anesthesia, that poses risk and could harm a patient. Informed consent is usually a written document signed by a patient after reading the document about a given procedure and its risks, as well as having a conversation with a medical/dental provider about the nature of the procedure and the risks. 

Informed consent should be thought of as a conversation between the dentist and the patient in which the dentist provides information about the procedure or treatment and the patient asks questions. The objective is to educate the patient about the recommended procedure or treatment so the patient can decide whether to go forward with it. As part of this conversation, the dentist will give the patient information such as:

  • The current status of the patient’s dental health
  • Any dental health problems that the dentist has discovered
  • The nature of the treatment or procedure that the dentist recommends
  • Possible benefits and risks associated with the treatment or procedure
  • Alternatives to the recommended treatment or procedure
  • Possible benefits and risks associated with the alternatives

Patient safety and informed consent

Once the dentist has provided the above details (and other information, as the circumstances dictate), the patient can then make an educated decision as to whether to proceed with the treatment or procedure. In the absence of this informed consent, a patient is deprived of the opportunity to choose or refuse treatments and procedures that could be detrimental to his or her safety, as well as decide on better alternatives. If the patient is injured, the dental facility’s failure to obtain informed consent opens the door to a potential lawsuit. Such is the case even if the injury in question was considered a standard risk of the treatment.

It should be emphasized that not all informed consent is considered valid under the law. When such consent lacks the above elements, the patient’s consent may be considered insufficient depending on the specific circumstances of each matter. This is especially the case where important details and explanations about risks are left out of the conversation with the patient.

If you have suffered injury at the hands of a dentist and were not properly informed about the risks of the procedure, or believe you were injured due to negligence on the part of the dentist, call us so that we can help you determine whether the dentist’s actions met the standard of professional conduct required under the law or that the informed consent was valid. An attorney can review the situation and explain whether the injury you suffered was the result of dental malpractice. At times we will need an expert to review dental aspects of the care and we can work with you on this as well.

Let Stanfield Bechtel Law Examine Your Legal Options

Were you treated for a dental condition without a proper discussion of the details, risks, and alternatives to the treatment? Did you give some type of consent but have questions about whether it was truly informed consent? Was the dentist or dental practice somehow irresponsible or unprofessional in their conduct?

For questions like these, turn to the dental malpractice attorneys of Stanfield Bechtel Law. Call us today to discuss your case.

About the Author
Jonathan believes the client should always come first, and aims to deliver a positive experience to exceed client expectations.