Informed consent and disclosure in the physician-patient relationship: expanding obligations for physicians in the United States

Med Law. 1995;14(5-6):429-44.


In recent years, the doctrine of informed consent has been one of the primary vehicles by which American courts and legislatures have evaluated the nature and scope of information that physicians must disclose to patients in a variety of treatment situations. Historically, physicians have had the primary responsibility to disclose to patients the nature of a proposed course of treatment, material risks and benefits, as well as reasonably available alternatives, in obtaining consent to treatment. Statutory and common-law developments in the United States appear to suggest that disclosure obligations of physicians in this context are continuing to evolve. This article examines recent judicial and legislative developments in the United States, which appear to underlie expanding disclosure obligations in a variety of situations that arise within the context of the physician-patient relationship. Emphasis is placed on disclosure obligations with respect to the physician's physical condition and its impact on the provision of medical care, information regarding the physician's general ability to perform certain surgeries or other medical procedures, as well as disclosure of research interests, financial interests, and other incentives that may bear upon clinical decision making. This article concludes that physicians should be aware of recent statutory and common-law developments in the United States that may give rise to heightened potential for legal accountability arising out of failure to disclose an increasingly diverse array of information to patients in the physician-patient relationship.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conflict of Interest / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Managed Care Programs / economics
  • Managed Care Programs / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physician Impairment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Research
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • United States