Friday, March 27, 2015
Back in November, I reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was deciding whether to become the eighth state to completely ban informed consent evidence from a traditional med mal trial. The plaintiff's lawyer argued that the informed consent could be used in a prejudicial way to insinuate that consent to the procedure amounted to consent to risks of negligence. The court declined to adopt a bright-line rule excluding informed consent evidence and overruled a contrary Superior Court ruling. The court, however, through Chief Justice Saylor, emphasized that informed consent and traditional med mal cases are very different:
The fact that a patient may have agreed to a procedure knowing its risks does not speak to whether the doctor fell below the standard of care in performing that procedure, Saylor said.
"Put differently, there is no assumption-of-the-risk defense available to a defendant physician which would vitiate his duty to provide treatment according to the ordinary standard of care," Saylor said. "The patient's actual, affirmative consent, therefore, is irrelevant to the question of negligence."
So, like with Brady's complaint, when a malpractice complaint only asserts negligence, and not a lack of informed consent, evidence of informed consent should be excluded, Saylor said.
Saylor noted that a jury could be confused by informed consent and conclude the plaintiff consented to the injury.
The court thus held that evidence of informed consent is "generally irrelevant to a cause of action sounding in medical negligence."
The court was unwilling to take the next step and hold evidence of informed consent is never admissible in a traditional med mal case. The Legal Intelligencer has the story.