Court rules against doctors for failing to disclose surgery risks

Operation blinded patient in her one good eye

Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/RAMBAM MEDICAL CENTER)
Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center
The Haifa Magistrate’s Court has ruled that doctors failed to disclose the risks to a patient who was blinded in her second eye by surgery, the court spokesperson announced Monday.
The decision was significant as the court did not only address the specific case, but also set broader parameters for the kinds of medical forms that require extra, more specific and explicit explanations.
Though the court only removed the gag order on the decision Monday, the court handed down its decision last week.
The patient, born blind in one eye in 1933, was diagnosed in 2007 with a brain tumor that could have endangered her vision in the healthy eye. Her doctors then recommended a series of surgeries to address the issue.
In 2008, the woman underwent the surgeries, which led to her losing vision in what had been her healthy eye.
The heart of the dispute was whether the doctors had warned the patient of the risks of the surgery.
The doctors and the hospital asserted that the patient had signed a disclosure form giving permission for the surgery.
But the court noted that an average person could not be expected to comprehend the convoluted and complicated document.
Even more importantly, the court said that the document the patient signed did not specify the surgeries’ risks.
The hospital said that the risks were explained to the patient verbally. However, the court explained that it was unclear if even those verbal explanations went into any real detail. In any event, absent written documentation of the risks explained, the court would assume they were not explained.
The court said that even if doctors could leave out certain details in internal documents, risks of surgery must be fully specified in writing to patients prior to surgeries.
Such documents are equivalent to a contract, the court said, and the documents used by the hospital did not meet the standards of relevant laws regarding the issue.