It is common for hospitals to require patients undergoing a medical procedure to sign a form consenting to treatment and releasing the hospital from liability. The language in these types of forms may appear to suggest that patients must waive away some of their important legal rights in order to receive treatment.
In reality, the language in a consent and release form cannot actually exculpate a medical provider in the event that something goes wrong and a patient suffers harm. Here are a couple of things that patients should know about releases and medical malpractice.
You cannot consent to negligence
A provider who commits negligence will not be immune from liability simply because someone signs a release. No one consents to be treated negligently, and it is not possible to enter into a contract that acquiesces to bodily harm resulting from negligence.
You may acknowledge risks
Some medical malpractice claims arise because a treating physician failed to warn a patient of the possible risks involved with a course of treatment. A signed release could be a defense to a claim based solely on failure to warn. If the patient signed a release form describing a procedure’s risks or acknowledging that a physician discussed the risks, the form may be evidence that a patient received an adequate warning.
To some extent, the purpose of a release may be to simply deter patients from making a claim for medical malpractice. Patients should not draw any conclusions about the legal efficacy of a consent and release form based solely on the content of the form itself.