Legal Memorandum: Doctrine of Informed Consent Violated

Issue: Under the laws of Iowa, how do the courts determine whether the doctrine of informed consent has been violated?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Doctrine of informed consent; Violation; Medical procedure
Jurisdiction: Iowa
Cited Cases: 210 N.W.2d 609; 491 N.W.2d 161; 408 N.W.2d 355
Cited Statutes: Iowa Code § 147.137;
Date: 02/01/2001

           The doctrine of informed consent arises out of the principle that absent extenuating circumstances a patient has the right to exercise control over his or her body by making an informed decision concerning whether to submit to a particular medical procedure.  Pauscher v. Iowa Methodist Medical Ctr., 408 N.W.2d 355, 358 (Iowa 1987); Bray v. Hill, 517 N.W.2d 223, 225 (Iowa Ct. App. 1994).  Under the doctrine, a doctor recommending a particular medical procedure generally has, among other obligations, a duty to disclose to the patient all material risks involved in the procedure.  Pauscher, 408 N.W.2d at 358; Bray, 517 N.W.2d at 225.  The physician’s duty to disclose is measured by the patient’s need to have access to all information material to making a truly informed and intelligent decision concerning the proposed medical procedure.  Doe v. Johnston, 476 N.W.2d 28, 31 (Iowa 1991); Bray, 517 N.W.2d at 225.

To establish negligence for failure to obtain informed consent, a plaintiff must prove that (1) the existence of a material risk unknown to the plaintiff, (2) the physician’s failure to disclose that risk, (3) that the disclosure of the risk would have led a reasonable patient in the plaintiff’s position to reject the medical procedure or choose a different course of treatment, and (4) injury.  Kennis v. Mercy Hosp. Medical Ctr., 491 N.W.2d 161, 166 (Iowa 1992); Bray, 517 N.W.2d at 225.  The question of whether a risk is material is an objective one based on […]

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