[Provision of information to patients. Legal and humanitarian requirements]

J Schara, L Brandt
Der Anaesthesist 2008, 57 (9): 937-44; quiz 945-6
Any treatment to which the patient has not expressly consented constitutes an assault according to our legal system. The patient's agreement is therefore necessary for every elective treatment. Patients cannot give meaningful consent until they have received detailed information on their illness, its presumed course, the treatment options and the risks they are exposed to both with and without treatment. This requires provision of information to allow self-determination. The requirement for the patient alone to make decisions arises from the personal rights in our [German] Constitution. If the information provided has been inadequate the doctor is liable for all negative-including life-changing-consequences, regardless of whether or not the risk that has been realised is one that is expressly required to be explained. The Federal Court of Justice requires the doctor to address each patient's personality and their fate when providing information (BGH, NHW 1983, 328, 329). It is not permissible for the duty to provide information to be delegated to a third party unless strict obligations are fulfilled (BGH 7.11.2006 VI ZR 206/05).

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