If you have suffered a serious injury or developed a life-threatening medical condition, you may have to undergo surgery as part of your treatment plan. In the pre-operating room, a nurse or another health care professional may ask you to sign a waiver. If your surgical procedure results in additional damage, you may wonder how the waiver you signed affects your medical malpractice case.
Like with any contract, the language of a medical waiver matters. Therefore, rather than letting the waiver dissuade you from protecting your interests, work to understand its legal implications. Some general rules apply when dealing with medical malpractice and surgical waivers.
Surgeons use waivers to obtain your informed consent. This has two parts. First, the doctor should explain the operation and address your concerns. Then, he or she collects your signature to verify you understand the procedure and consent to it.
On the other hand, if you refuse to sign a waiver, there is little chance the surgeon will go forward with the operation. After all, operating on individuals who have not given informed consent is a sure-fire way for surgeons to face a medical malpractice claim.
While it is common for surgeons to have patients sign them, waivers are not without problems. In the lead-up to a surgical procedure, you may have anxiety that interferes with your ability to understand risk. The surgeon may also have a limited time to explain potential complications.
As well, because waivers are often long and full of legalese, you simply may not fully grasp what you are signing before an operation.
Even when patients sign them, waivers do not cover everything. Rather, they typically release hospitals and medical professionals from liability for known risks and complications.
However, waivers do not generally release liability for negligent conduct. This is especially true if the surgeon’s actions fall below the medical standard of care. Therefore, if you have sustained some type of injury after consenting to a surgical procedure, it is vital to explore whether the waiver limits your potential for recovery.