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Can You Sue a Doctor for Withholding Information?

A person has a right to control their own body. The rule applies when it comes to medical care.

When a person has a medical problem, they have the right to decide how it’s treated. They need the relevant information to determine what medical care to get.

The question is what information the doctor must provide. When can a doctor withhold information? How much information do they have to give? Our lawyers explain withholding information in the context of medical care.

Can You Sue a Doctor for Withholding Information?

It is possible to sue a doctor for withholding information. If the doctor doesn’t provide the patient with sufficient information about their diagnosis and possible courses of medical treatment, it may constitute medical malpractice. If the withholding of information results in harm to the patient, they may sue the doctor for compensation.

Withholding information in the context of medical care is an issue of informed consent.

A patient has a right to choose their course of treatment. It’s up to the patient, not the doctor, to decide whether to undergo medical treatment. To have control over their medical care, they need information. If a patient doesn’t have enough information and the correct information, they cannot make an informed decision in their medical care.

What Information Does a Doctor Have to Provide for Their Patient?

During treatment, a doctor must disclose:

  1. The patient’s diagnosis
  2. How the medical procedure works
  3. Risks of having the procedure
  4. Likelihood of success
  5. What may happen if the patient chooses not to have the procedure
  6. Alternatives to the procedure

The patient must have the information they need to determine whether they want a particular procedure. Hook v. Rothstein, 281 S.C. 541 (1984), citing Sard v. Hardy, 281 Md. 432 (1977).

Cases About Withholding Information and Medical Malpractice

South Carolina courts have explored the issue of whether withholding information constitutes medical malpractice.

The Hook case was about informed consent as a form of medical malpractice. The victim suffered a stomach tumor and required a procedure. The doctor did not inform the patient about the possibility of a fatal reaction from the contrast material used in the procedure. Additionally, the patient did not inform the doctor about their history of allergies. The patient had a reaction to the contrast material and died.

The Hook court recognized the doctrine of informed consent in South Carolina medical malpractice law. The court discussed several standards to implement and chose the professional standard. The physician has a duty to communicate the information that a reasonable medical professional in the same specialty would give in similar circumstances. Expert medical testimony is required to establish this standard.

See also Tisdale v. Pruitt, 302 S.C. 238 (1990) (in which a patient merely sought a second opinion about their medical condition, but the doctor performed an abortion without telling the patient what they were doing).

Are there any circumstances where a doctor may withhold information?

If an emergency warrants immediate medical treatment, a doctor may be justified in withholding information.

Can a patient refuse medical care?

A competent patient has the right to refuse medical care. They may decline all medical intervention even when it is necessary to prolong life. Harvey v. Strickland, 350 S.C. 303 (2002).

How do you know if withholding information is medical malpractice?

Whether withholding information amounts to medical malpractice depends on the facts of the specific case. The patient must have the information they need to make an informed choice. It depends on the entire context of the course of care and what information a reasonable professional should provide in the situation.

Contact Bobby Jones Law If Suing for Withholding Medical Information

If you have concerns about the medical care you received, we invite you to contact Bobby Jones Law. A doctor may not withhold information from a patient when it’s relevant to making decisions about their care. What happened to you may have been medical malpractice.

Our lawyers can help you investigate what happened to you. If you qualify to bring a claim, our law firm can represent you through the entire process. 

Contact us today to talk about your case.

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