The decision by Maryland’s highest court to extend the doctrine of informed consent to doctors’ talks with patients about medical options has resulted in the reinstatement of a $13 million birthing malpractice verdict to a mother whose son was born with cerebral palsy. Peggy McQuitty and Dylan filed a Baltimore County medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Donald Spangler, their obstetrician in September 2001.
They accused Spangler of failing to tell her when she was 32 weeks pregnant, and an abnormality had been detected during an ultrasound, that if she had an immediate C-section her baby might be born healthy. McQuitty then experienced a complete uterine abruption several days later and had to undergo an emergency C-section.
A jury ruled issued its Maryland medical malpractice verdict in the plaintiffs’ favor. The judge, however, allowed the defendant’s request for judgment not withstanding verdict and noted that the doctrine of informed consent only applies to “affirmative violations of the patient’s physical integrity,” not the doctor’s inaction.
Maryland’s Informed Consent Law
The state’s law of informed consent requires a doctor to discuss a proposed procedure with a patient, explain the procedure to him or her, as well as provide information about possible risks so that the patient can make an informed decision. The physician cannot treat the patient without his or her consent.
In a unanimous decision, however, Maryland’s highest court held that under the informed consent doctrine doctors must not only tell patients about the risks of having surgery but they also must inform them of possible repercussions if they decide to not undergo a specific medical procedure.
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