Last time, we began looking at a lawsuit filed against Michigan State University for its alleged failure to supervise a physician accused of sexually assault female patients during medical examinations and procedures. As we noted last time, one of the areas of focus in the litigation is the university’s new informed consent policy.
The policy, which was only recently adopted, requires informed consent from patients for examinations, treatments or procedures which are particularly sensitive, such as vaginal and rectal exams, as well as pelvic floor procedures. The policy requires that a physician wear gloves and that the patient provides consent to the procedures after a clear explanation of the procedure.
Another aspect of the new policy is that university physicians are now required to obtain permission before performing volunteer work in a setting outside the university. In addition, supervisors of university medical professionals are also supposed to document feedback about performance on an annual basis. Medical malpractice insurance coverage will not, under the policy, apply to medical professionals who act outside the scope of their duties or who violate university policies while volunteering. The idea is to better allow the university to supervise physicians and control its liabilities.
Informed consent is important in medical care not only to ensure that physicians have permission to perform the work they need to perform, but also for hospitals to manage patient expectations of treatments and procedures and manage potential liabilities.
Patients who understand the details and reasons for a treatment or procedure, as well as the risks and alternatives, are less likely to become litigious. That being said, not all informed consent is created equal. In some cases the information provided to a patient may be inaccurate or insufficient in some other way. We’ll look more at this issue in a future post.