The Illinois legislature is considering an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act that would help ensure patients fully understand all of their medical treatment options. If the bill becomes law, it would help medical malpractice victims in Illinois.
The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act Today
Under the current law, doctors and other medical professionals in Illinois can refuse to provide certain treatments – and may even legally withhold information about certain treatments – if the treatment or information conflicts with the doctor’s religious beliefs.
For example, a woman who gives birth at a Catholic hospital might not be told that she could have a tubal ligation (a method of preventing further pregnancies, also known as having your tubes tied) while having a Cesarean section. For women who are done having children, tubal ligations are routinely performed as part of a c-section because the patient is already under anesthesia. In all medical procedures, there are risks to a patient while under anesthesia and being operated on. Doing the procedure at the same time as a c-section minimizes the risk of infection or complications caused by the anesthesia.
Under the existing Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act:
“[A] health care facility, or any physician or health care personnel working in the facility, may refuse to permit, perform, assist in, counsel about, suggest, recommend, refer for, or participate in health care services because of a conscience-based objection only if the refusal occurs in accordance with written access to care and information protocols designed to ensure that (1) the patient receives material information in a timely fashion; and (2) the refusal will not impair the patient’s health by causing delay of or inability to access the refused health care service.”
Medical Malpractice Overview
Medical malpractice can take many forms, including failing to diagnose an illness or disease, failing to warn a patient of the risks of a procedure or course of treatment, and improperly treating a patient’s condition.
To have a valid medical malpractice claim in Illinois, the patient and the patient’s medical malpractice lawyer must show:
- The doctor or medical provider was negligent in treating the medical condition
- The negligence caused an injury in the patient
- That injury led to damages, such as additional medical bills, pain or time off of work
Under the existing law, a doctor or hospital would be immune from a medical malpractice lawsuit if the doctor can claim it withheld information about treatment options from a patient because of a “conscious-based opinion.” No other state gives medical professionals so much leeway in allowing them to provide incomplete information about medical treatment options.
Proposed Changes to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act
If successful, Illinois Senate Bill 1564 would obligate doctors, nurses and hospitals to explain all of the patient’s medical treatment options so that the patient can make an informed decision about the best course of treatment. No longer would patients be denied information based on the religious beliefs of the medical professional or hospital that is providing treatment.
The bill would still allow doctors and hospitals to refuse to perform certain treatments, but the medical professional would have to let patients know about all treatment options. Take, for example, the pregnant woman who wants to deliver her child and then have no more children. If her doctor works at a Catholic hospital that refuses to perform tubal ligations, then her doctor would still have to explain the option to her. He would also have to let her know that she could deliver at another hospital that will perform a tubal ligation immediately following a c-section.
This amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act would have a two-fold benefit when it comes to medical malpractice. First, it would reduce the number of incidents of medical malpractice, because patients would have access to more complete information. Second, if a medical professional did withhold information from a patient based on the medical professional’s religious beliefs, then the patient would have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit if he or she was injured and suffered damages as a result. No longer would the doctor or hospital have blanket immunity from a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Senate Bill 1564 was approved by the Illinois Senate earlier in 2015. It is awaiting a vote by the Illinois House.
Hire Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers to Handle Your Med Mal Claim
If you’ve been injured as a result of a doctor, nurse or hospital’s negligence, then you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact the law firm of Cogan & Power, P.C., at (312) 477-2500 to arrange a meeting with our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers.