A Maryland medical malpractice claim based on the lack of informed consent can be complicated in some cases, particularly when the patient is a minor. In a February 1, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed the duty of healthcare professionals and the doctrine of informed consent in Maryland.
The sixteen-year-old plaintiff in the case had been diagnosed with early-onset preeclampsia during the second trimester of her pregnancy. The medical team met with the plaintiff and her mother to discuss the treatment options, which included terminating the pregnancy, inducing labor for vaginal delivery, or cesarean section. Although her doctors continued to recommend a cesarean section for the wellbeing of the fetus, the plaintiff repeatedly confirmed her decision to avoid the procedure. In addition, the plaintiff signed two consent forms explicitly declining a cesarean section with the understanding that inducing vaginal delivery would impose additional stress on the fetus and that the infant would have a better chance of survival if a cesarean section was performed. Following induced vaginal labor, the baby was born with severe mental and physical disabilities that require life-long dependent and medical care.
The plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, claiming that the hospital had violated her right to informed consent with respect to her delivery options. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages of approximately 230 million dollars. The hospital appealed on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s findings on the issue of breach of informed consent.
In the context of a medical malpractice action, the doctrine of informed consent imposes a duty on healthcare professionals to explain to their patients a medical procedure and to warn of any material risks of dangers before performing the treatment, so as to enable the patient to make an informed choice about whether or not to undergo such treatment. To prevail in a case alleging lack of informed consent, the plaintiff must prove that a reasonable person would not have consented to the treatment if the risk had been disclosed at the time the decision was made.
On appeal, the court concluded that there was no evidence of any material piece of information withheld by the plaintiff’s doctors that violated her right to informed consent. The court further explained that the testimony of the plaintiff’s experts was not that that the hospital had failed to disclose material risks, but rather that the hospital had failed to emphasize the benefits of a cesarean section. Insofar as the hospital had informed the plaintiff of the risks of injury that had, in fact, occurred, the court held that it had not violated the plaintiff’s right to informed consent and reversed the jury verdict.
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