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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Doctors, Not Staff, Must Obtain Informed Consent

June 23rd, 2017

In a move with significant implications for legal liability exposures for physicians and medical practices, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on June 20 that physicians cannot delegate the responsibility to obtain informed consent from patients before a medical procedure. This means that informed consent obtained by staff members does not meet the state’s informed consent requirement under the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) law.

According to the majority opinion in the case, “Informed consent requires direct communication between physician and patient, and contemplates a back-and-forth, face-to-face exchange, which might include questions that the patient feels the physician must answer personally before the patient feels informed and becomes willing to consent. The duty to obtain the patient’s informed consent belongs solely to the physician.”

All Pennsylvania physicians and practices should take note of this ruling and, if needed, change their internal processes relating to informed consent to reflect its guidance.

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