Allen v. Harrison

This was a medical malpractice case premised in part on the doctrine of informed consent. Appellant Teresa Allen swallowed a small nail. She went to Duncan Regional Hospital's emergency room. Appellee John Harrison, D.O., emergency room physician (Physician), examined Allen. An X-ray confirmed the presence of a foreign body in Allen's stomach, just below the diaphragm. Based on Physician's assessment and clinical judgment, Physician discharged Allen prescribing: (1) "a high-fiber diet to let the nail pass;" (2) return to the hospital if she had any problems; and (3) follow up with her family doctor in three days. A few days later following severe vomiting, Allen went to the emergency room at Southwestern Hospital in Lawton. That same day, the hospital performed emergency surgery to remove the ingested nail from Allen's intestines. At that time, Allen was treated for a perforated and infected bowel. In addition, Allen endured two additional surgeries to treat the complications that arose from the initial surgery. Allen sued Duncan Regional Hospital and Physician for the defendants' alleged medical negligence and failure to obtain Allen's informed consent. Specifically, Allen contended that Physician failed to disclose the potential risk in letting the nail pass through her digestive system as well as the alternatives to his recommended course of treatment. Had Physician effectively discharged his duty to disclose, Allen would have "chosen the option of no treatment or a different course of treatment." The issue presented on certiorari review was whether the doctrine of informed consent required a physician to obtain the patient's consent before implementing a nonsurgical or noninvasive course of treatment. "Inherent in the question presented, is whether a physician-in addition to discussing with the patient treatment alternatives that the physician recommends-should discuss medically reasonable alternatives that the physician does not recommend." After review of the trial court record, the Oklahoma Supreme Court answered both of those questions in the affirmative. View "Allen v. Harrison" on Justia Law