Although physicians generally are expected to secure their patients' informed consent to medical treatment, an emerging body of legal opinion holds that in certain situations nurses and allied health care professionals may be found similarly responsible. Failure of a health care provider to protect a patient's right of informed consent might result in a lawsuit alleging that serious harm was sustained needlessly because the patient plaintiff was not informed of certain significant risks of or consequences that resulted from treatment. As a professional group that puts patients at risk of harm during treatment, physical therapists need to know about their legal duty to facilitate a patient's awareness of and consent to treatment. This article discusses the nature of that duty and how a patient plaintiff might try to prove negligence against a physical therapist who allegedly fails to secure a valid statement of informed consent. The article also provides recommendations so that physical therapists might protect themselves from malpractice suits alleging “uninformed” consent.
- Received August 20, 1986.
- Accepted October 9, 1986.