The South Dakota surgeon had been called to vouch for the expertise of one of his partners whose patient had suffered a stroke and permanent disability after an operation. The problem was Aanning had, in his own mind, questioned his colleague’s skill. His partner’s patients had suffered injuries related to his procedures. But Aanning understood why his partner’s attorney had called him as a witness: Doctors don’t squeal on doctors.
However, our legal system is set up in such a way where monetary damages is not only a way to compensate persons for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering; it is also there as a way to hold doctors accountable for their actions. Without the threat of monetary sanctions and lawsuits, doctors would lose some motivation for conducting their professional lives in a careful and cautious manner. Furthermore, if you doctor did negligently injure you or a loved one, bringing suit against him may serve as a wakeup call and could possibly prevent him from injuring someone else in the future.
Currently, most states have legal precedents that establish an informed consent standard. For instance, in Cobbs v. Grant, 8 Cal.3d 229, 104 Cal. Rptr. 505, 502 P.2d 1 (1972), the California Supreme Court first introduced the premise as “a duty of reasonable disclosure of the available choices with respect to proposed therapy and of the dangers inherently and potentially involved in each.” The Court further defined the physician’s duty in Truman v. Thomas, 27 Cal.3d 285, 611 P.2d 902 (1980), by stating that doctors must also inform patients of all material risks a reasonable person would want to know if deciding not to undergo a treatment or procedure. In other words, if certain information would be relevant to a patient’s understanding of and course of action in regards to a current condition, treatment or procedure, the doctor must share that data with the patient—to not do so would be considered lying as well as illegal.