What is a patient's right to informed consent in Maryland?

Most medical procedures carry certain risks. Usually the risks are very slight compared to the overall patient benefit, but in some cases high-risk procedures must be considered in attempting to deal with a serious or life-threatening condition.

Maryland law provides that patients have the right to be informed of the risks and benefits of a procedure or course of treatment, and the right to give or withhold consent for that procedure or treatment. Informed consent basically means the patient, not the doctor, makes the decisions regarding their health care.

Determining whether a patient has the capacity to give informed consent can be a complicated issue. If the patient is not mentally competent, consent can be provided by a proxy or health care agent appointed by the patient in a living will or health care directive.

If the patient is a non-emancipated minor, parental consent must be obtained in most cases, although minors in Maryland are allowed to consent without parental involvement to certain procedures or treatments including those relating to contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism or drug dependency. If an unmarried minor seeks an abortion, Maryland law requires the physician to obtain parental consent before performing the procedure, although there are certain exceptions to this requirement.

If a physician or health care provider performs a procedure or treatment without first obtaining the patient's informed consent, and the patient is injured as a result, the provider can be held liable for medical malpractice. The patient may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, scarring, disfigurement and pain and suffering.

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