Court Affirms Inadmissibility of Informed Consent Documents in Medical Malpractice Case

The Virginia Supreme Court released a decision last month that affirmed a lower court’s decision to prevent a dentist’s proposed evidence from being heard by the jury in a Virginia medical malpractice case. In the decision in Fiorucci v. Chinn, released October 31, 2014, the Court ruled that both the informed consent documents signed by a patient before surgery, as well as the discussions that the patient had with his dentist about the risks of surgery, were inadmissible evidence in the patient’s malpractice case against his dentist for injuries the patient suffered during and after an attempted wisdom tooth extraction.

The Facts of the Case
instrument-collection-1047190-m.jpgThe patient filed a medical malpractice claim against his dentist after the dentist told him that his teeth were decaying and attempted an extraction. During the failed extraction, the doctor punctured the patient’s sinuses and also left a piece of the patient’s tooth in his gums after aborting the surgery. The complications from the surgery left the patient with a lengthy hospital stay and permanent damage and numbness in his lower jaw, which he alleged was the result of the dentist negligently diagnosing and treating his symptoms.

The Lawsuit at Trial
In an effort to demonstrate that the plaintiff assumed the risks associated with the surgery and absolve himself from responsibility for the injuries, the defendant filed a motion to admit the informed consent form signed by the plaintiff before the surgery, which outlined the risks associated with tooth extraction, as well as to admit evidence surrounding the conversations between the dentist and patient surrounding the risks of surgery. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions, ruling that the proposed evidence was not relevant to the issue of the dentist’s malpractice, and the defendant appealed.

The Case on Appeal
On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, making it clear that the patient’s signing of an informed consent document and understanding of the risks associated with even a properly performed surgery is not an excuse for the medical provider to commit malpractice. The Court agreed with the trial court and ruled that the legal requirement to prove medical malpractice, which is whether a medical provider adhered to the medical standard of care required for the patient’s condition, was not affected by the patient’s understanding of risks related to the procedure. Because of this, the Court ruled that the admission of the proposed evidence was in no way relevant to the plaintiff’s case and would potentially confuse the jury as to the dentist’s duty to his patient.

Potential victims of medical malpractice often think that by signing a waiver at the doctor’s office that the doctor is not responsible for anything that may go wrong under the treatment that they receive, and this is not the case. Medical providers owe patients a duty to perform up to the standard of care for the treatment being given, and they can be held legally responsible for the consequences of treatment they render, even if the patient was notified of the risk of the exact complication suffered. Patients who suffer complications, illness, or injury after being treated by a medical professional should consult competent legal counsel as shortly as possible after the complications are suffered.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you think that you or someone you love has been the victim of medical malpractice, the dedicated malpractice attorneys at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt have the skill to make sure your case is handled properly and help you get the compensation that you deserve. Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt represents clients in medical malpractice cases across the country. Call us today at (410)998-3600 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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