LawTalk Blog

Sweaty palms and a failure to warn

my doctor didn't tell me about the risks

You might have seen our previous blog on “My doctor didn't tell me about the risks associated with my treatment”. Following on from that, we recently came across a real case (from another firm) that confirms a patient’s obligation to inform themselves as much as possible, about any risks associated with medical treatment.

A patient suffered from “sweaty palms” which she found to be embarrassing.  She attended a doctor for treatment and the doctor explained the risks and complications of surgery to stop excessive sweating.  The patient thought it was a brief explanation.

The doctor also provided her with an information brochure which set out the risks and warnings of the procedures. The patient decided to go ahead with the surgery which subsequently resulted in complications.

The patient sued the doctor for a failure to adequately warn her of the risks and complications and for the failure to advise of non-surgical alternatives.

"The court held that the doctor had no obligation to forewarn of any potential psychological injury..."

The court held that the doctor was entitled to take how the patient presented at the time of the consultation and that she had the ability to read the information brochure and understand its contents.  The court also held that the doctor had no obligation to forewarn of any potential psychological injury that may be suffered by the patient in the event the surgery did not go to plan and was not required to discuss with her, current medical literature on the topic.

In summary the doctor was found not liable.

This case highlights the obligation on patients themselves to make all necessary enquiries before consenting to surgery. It also highlights the increased importance that information brochures play in setting out relevant risks and warnings of medical procedures.

In other words, it is increasingly important for patients to “read the fine print” and take responsibility for themselves in deciding whether or not to undergo surgery; especially in cases that are non-life threatening or where surgery is undertaken at the request of the patient rather than following a recommendation by a doctor as a response to an illness.


Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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