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Do patients forfeit their rights by signing a release before surgery?

In most hospitals, patients will need to sign some form of consent before undergoing a medical procedure. Many of these types of forms appear to be blanket releases. They may state that a patient acknowledges the risks of a procedure or that the hospital will not be responsible for a patient’s injuries.

In reality, a consent or a release may not necessarily exculpate a hospital if a doctor negligently injures a patient. Nevertheless, there are some ways that releases may present obstacles to certain types of claims.

Failure to warn

One common basis for medical malpractice claims is that a provider did not warn a patient of potential consequences from a procedure. A consent form that describes specific risks in detail may be a defense to a claim for failure to warn.

Pre-existing conditions

If patients have a pre-existing condition that presents unique risks for certain procedures, they must inform medical providers about it prior to a procedure. A release may indicate that a patient has disclosed all medical conditions. This type of acknowledgement could be problematic for a claim involving complications associated with a condition that providers maintain they did not know about.

Aftercare instructions

Some procedures require very thorough instructions about post-operative care. If a patient signs off on receiving and reviewing instructions, it may be more difficult to claim that a hospital failed to provide them.

Ultimately, a blanket release of all claims will not prevent a person from suing a medical provider for negligence. However, a release could impede medical malpractice claims on grounds such as failure to warn.