Article Date: 5/1/2001

Law Review
Informed Consent
What you need to know about the process and your own liability.
PAUL PENG, O.D., J.D.

As the scope of optometry continues to expand, more of us are getting involved in the co-management of patients for their surgical needs. Surprisingly, one of the most overlooked aspects of surgical procedures is the informed consent process.

As this issue will pertain to an increasing number of us, let's take a look at the importance of this documentation process and what we need to know about it.

Needed knowledge

As a co-managing optometrist with any surgeon, you should know the answer to the following questions to minimize post-surgical liability.

When the court's involved

If the informed consent to surgery process is challenged, the court will often apply a subjective standard in determining its validity. It will then examine the actions of whomever performed the informed consent.

To reach a decision, the court often asks the following questions.

Hitting it home

Finally, consider the following:

Raise your awareness

Although we're not the actual surgeons, in the eyes of our patients, we are an important aspect of the managing team. Although the surgeon may have performed a flawless procedure, he remains responsible for the wrongful actions of the co-managing doctor (you) after the surgery.

The same relationship is also true for the co-managing doctor. In many states, the co-managing O.D. is held to the same liability as the surgeon. If an unfavorable outcome results from surgery, the patient may seek compensation from both the surgeon and you. So you could be held equally liable for the patient's outcome as the attending surgeon.

Dr. Peng is in private practice in Castro Valley, Calif. He's an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry and is also coordinator of ocular telemedicine and the director of the China Optometric Resource Development Program. He's the director of education at the Pacific Laser Eye Center at U.C. Berkeley as well. In addition, he's also a consultant in various aspects of law involving optometry.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2001