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Informed Consent for COVID-19 Risks: Frequently Asked Questions

May 1, 2020: To support our members and the entire medical profession during this unprecedented time, the following are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding informed consent for COVID-19 risks.

No. However, we recommend that discussions, including shared decision-making about COVID-19, should be conducted between the physician and patient prior to the provision of treatment. Follow this guidance for the COVID-19 information that should be covered during the informed consent process for the patient’s specific procedure. As consents should be tailored to the context of the treatment, some specialty organizations may offer specific COVID-19 related consent forms. We encourage our members to contact their specialty organizations.

Also, members should review and comply with any state or local restrictions or requirements that impact patient care, such as community transmission, limitations on the availability of PPE, or limited ICU availability in the event of a complication and the wisdom of proceeding with the treatment should be considered and any alternatives discussed. Similarly, if there are any resource limitations that might impact patient care, with or without a complication, those should be disclosed and documented through the informed consent process.

No. Waivers of liability are largely ineffective and often ethically questionable. However, it should be noted that a detailed comprehensive informed consent discussion of risks can effectively work as limited waiver if one of the disclosed risks of the care or procedure results in injury or harm.

Yes. However, that claim, like all claims, would have to be viewed in the context of the care that was provided. If reasonable precautions to prevent contamination were taken, the claim would be difficult to support.

Some states have relaxed requirements for certain classes of workers, such as healthcare workers, to obtain workers compensation payments. Contact your broker or agent for information regarding the status of this issue in your state.

The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider considering the circumstances of the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.