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Can unauthorized emergency treatment be hospital negligence?

Whether it is for religious beliefs or another reason, some people do not want certain types of emergency medical treatment. Examples of unwanted treatments might include blood transfusions, surgery, experimental techniques and drug treatments, to name a few. Complicating the issues even more is that occasionally, an unauthorized emergency treatment may worsen the patient's condition.

In describing hospital negligence that may occur in an emergency, it is important to understand that "unauthorized" means that health care providers did not acquire the patient's informed consent before treatment. Informed consent is an important part of health care. Breaking it down into two easily understandable elements, it means:

  1. Informed: Medical providers explain the treatment to the patient as well as any risks and benefits it may carry. The provider must also make sure the patient understands the explanation.
  2. Consent: Based on his or her understanding of the doctor's explanation, the patient signs a document consenting to the procedures.

Unfortunately, in an emergency, the patient may be unconscious and unable to consent to any proposed treatment. While informed consent is required in nonemergency situations, medical providers may treat a person during life-threatening emergencies without getting consent.

As you may already know, some medical treatments work and others do not. In order to file a successful hospital negligence claim based on unauthorized emergency treatment, it will likely be necessary to show that the patient suffered preventable harm from the treatment.

With that said, it is worth the effort to take such a case before a legal professional for evaluation, especially if an injury did occur or if the patient did not understand a medical provider's explanation of a treatment or procedure. The concept of informed consent and patient rights are too important for victims in Boston to ignore.

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