Is informed consent more difficult with brain injuries?

A patient wants to know about any possible symptoms he or she may experience arising from a condition.  Indeed, some research indicates that patients are more aggressive in suing doctors if they felt like information was withheld from them. Said another way, patients may be able to accept consequences if they had informed consent, provided that the care they received was not negligent.

Yet informed consent takes on a different aspect when it comes to brain injuries that occur after birth, whether traumatic or acquired. The reason is that the symptoms and prognosis of brain injuries can seem as varied as the number of patients. The spectrum of outcomes from TBI injuries includes death, hospitalization, mild or no symptoms, and anywhere in between.

Falls continue to be the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, comprising around 40 percent of TBI cases, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Injury Prevention Center. Motor vehicle accidents, in contrast, came in only at 14.3 percent. Both of these scenarios might be the result of another's negligence, perhaps due to negligent property maintenance or behaviors behind the wheel. In such event, it is important to consult with an attorney before accepting an early settlement offer.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis of a brain injury is also problematic. Emergency responders typically assess the severity of a brain injury by measuring eye openings, verbal and motor responses according to the Glasgow Coma Scale. Yet even then, that score may ultimately bear no relation to a victim’s actual level of brain injury and recovery.

A law firm that focuses on personal injury law, like ours, understands that requesting damages requires extensive analysis. That process is even harder for brain injuries, where long-term impact is so uncertain. However, we work with medical experts in building a strong case and preparing for even long-term care needs. 

Source: National Brain Injury Information Center, “About Brain Injury,” copyright 2015, Brain Injury Association of America

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