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Informed Consent Protections for People With Diminished Decision-Making Abilities

Dec 16, 2020 | Firm News, Informed Consent

People with diminished decision-making abilities—such as those who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and others—are particularly vulnerable to coercion or undue influence. That is why there are added protections for these individuals with respect to providing informed consent.

Here’s what you need to know:

Decision-Making Capacity

When it comes to decision-making capacity, this refers to a patient’s ability to do the following:

  • Make and express a choice;
  • Comprehend relevant information;
  • Appreciate the significance of the information as it relates to the patient’s own situation; and
  • Reason with this relevant information in making decisions.

Thus, anyone who cannot provide informed consent or who does not have adequate understanding to be able to provide viable informed consent is referred to as having “diminished decision-making capacity.” This capacity is a spectrum, which means that some people will have stronger abilities to understand and reason than others.

Providing Consent

People with diminished decision-making capacity are still capable of providing consent, but the following additional safeguards should be put in place to assist them:

  • Use an independent “qualified professional” to assess the consent capacity of the patient at the time of consent and in an ongoing fashion
  • Initiate a waiting period to allow extra time for decision making
  • Use methods to enhance consent capacity, such as the following:
    • Repetition
    • Simplification
    • Enlist a subject advocate or trusted family members
  • Use questionnaires to assess comprehension
  • Re-assess the patient’s decision-making capacity for progressive ailments
  • Involve legally authorized representatives (LARs) if cognition declines

The Takeaway

Ultimately, when medical professionals obtain informed consent from patients with diminished decision-making capacity, it is very important that extra care is taken to make sure the individual understands and agrees to all implications of a proposed procedure or treatment plan.

If you or a loved one have had your informed consent rights violated and were harmed as a result, we may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Don’t hesitate to contact our office with your case right away.

Contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Garau Germano, P.C. today by calling to discuss the details of your case.