Legal Pearl

Informed Consent Is More Than a Signed Form

Ann W. Latner, JD

  • A patient, who was a recent immigrant from China and only spoke Cantonese, was referred to the defendant gynecologist for treatment of human papillomavirus infection (HPV) and evaluation for intrauterine device (IUD) removal. Although the doctor recommended removal, the patient refused for 5 years until she developed fibroids. At that point, the patient wanted the IUD removed. The gynecologist gave the patient a consent form written in English, which she read to her in Cantonese. The doctor also explained (in Cantonese) the procedure and common risks. One of these risks occurred—the string on the IUD broke as the doctor was removing it and she was forced to use forceps, resulting in pain and bleeding. The next day, the patient went to the hospital where she had surgery after bleeding was found in her uterus and her bowel was perforated.

    The patient sued the gynecologist for medical malpractice and lack of informed consent.

    Was the gynecologist at fault?

    (Answer and discussion on the next page)