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Is Informed Consent Really Necessary?

Question: I like the idea of educating my patients about their care. However, since chiropractic care is such a low risk to patients, is it really necessary to obtain my patients' informed consent before I treat them?

Answer: You are taking the right step in thinking about the role of informed consent in your practice.

It is important to check with your state board of examiners, personal counsel, and/or state association to determine the legal requirement for informed consent in your state. The laws are changing and many states now have statutory requirements.

Additionally, today’s patients increasingly feel it is their right to be informed and to participate in and make intelligent decisions about their care. In today’s legal environment, failure to obtain a patient’s informed consent is a component of almost every malpractice case.

From our perspective, NCMIC will defend you whether or not you choose to implement an informed consent process into your practice. However, if you are in a state that requires informed consent, your defense could be compromised if you fail to meet the state’s mandate.

If you decide to proceed with an informed consent process in your practice, keep in mind the process generally requires the patient to fully appreciate:

  1. The nature of the treatment to be rendered
  2. All material risks associated with the treatment and the possibility that those risks will occur
  3. Alternative treatments available and their associated risks
  4. The risks of not being treated

As you can see, this means informed consent is not merely a form but rather a two-way process in which patients are asked if they understand the risks of care and are given an opportunity to ask questions. The patient must understand the information well enough to be able to relate it back to you.

In terms of the informed consent documentation, the patient should be given sufficient time to read and review the form thoroughly before signing it. And the entire informed consent discussion and process should be documented in the records, to substantiate that the patient understood what they were signing.

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