Gross McGinley LLP

gross-headerimg-3
Blog Disclaimer

Blog Disclaimer

This Blog is intended for educational and informational purposes and intended to only provide you with a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice, including on the subject of the Blog. Laws that may pertain to this Blog will vary by jurisdiction, and the information on this blog may not apply to you. The content within this Blog is not intended, and should not be construed, in any way to be legal advice and thus you should not rely on any information provided in the Blog as legal advice. You should consult with appropriate legal counsel concerning any issues for which legal advice may be needed. Your review or use of the Blog and the content therein is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact us if you have any questions about a Blog or would like more information, but, by contacting us, no attorney-client relationship is formed between you and Gross McGinley, LLP, including the Blog author. Do not send any confidential information to Gross McGinley, LLP or the authors of the Blog without first speaking to one of our lawyers and receiving our permission to provide confidential information. Unsolicited confidential information sent to us may not be subject to an attorney-client privilege and may not be treated as confidential. This Blog is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Gross McGinley, LLP disclaims all liability to all persons for any claim, loss, liability or any damages that may arise in connection with the Blog and any content or information contained in the Blog. Even though we strive to create our Blog content based on our current understanding of the law, we cannot and do not guarantee that the content and information in the Blog is current, accurate, or complete. Gross McGinley, LLP owns the copyright in the Blog, which is protected by federal and state laws, including copyright laws. The Blog cannot be altered or modified in any way. A copy of the Blog may be used and printed only for personal, educational, informational and noncommercial purposes. The Blog cannot be used for any other purpose without the express permission of Gross McGinley, LLP.

Only Physicians May Obtain a Patient’s Informed Consent

Written by: Graig M. Schultz on July 10, 2017 | Category: Blog | Tags:

A majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that a physician — and only a physician — may obtain a patient’s informed consent prior to performing a medical procedure.

In Shinal v. Toms, Megan Shinal underwent surgery with Dr. Steven Toms to remove a recurrent non-malignant brain tumor. Prior to surgery, Dr. Toms met with Ms. Shinal, who agreed that he would determine during the surgery whether to remove the entire tumor, or perform a partial resection. However, he did not determine the surgical approach to be used in his discussion with Ms. Shinal.

Although Dr. Toms conducted the initial consultation with Ms. Shinal, it was his physician assistant who later informed her of the risks of surgery, and obtained her consent.  Unfortunately, Ms. Shinal’s surgery was complicated by a carotid artery perforation, which left her partially blind.

At trial, Ms. Shinal argued that her consent to the surgery was invalid because it was not obtained by Dr. Toms, and because she was never advised of the specific risks of total versus partial resection of the tumor.  However, the Court instructed the jury that they could consider any relevant information which was communicated to Ms. Shinal by the physician assistant to satisfy the informed consent requirements.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Toms.  Ms. Shinal appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed the Trial Court’s ruling.

On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to grant Ms. Shinal’s request for a new trial.  Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice Wecht stated: “Informed consent requires direct communication between physician and patient, and contemplates a back-and-forth, face-to-face exchange, which might include questions that the patient feels the physician must answer personally before the patient feels informed and becomes willing to consent. The duty to obtain the patient’s informed consent belongs solely to the physician.”

In light of the Court’s decision, physicians must ensure that they themselves provide the patient with sufficient information concerning the risks and benefits of a proposed course of treatment in order to enable the patient to make an informed decision about the treatment. To substantiate informed consent, a physician has a duty to inform the patient about the risks, benefits, likelihood of success, and available alternatives.


Attorney Graig Schultz is a member of Gross McGinley’s Medical Malpractice Defense Group, representing hospitals, physician practices, and individual medical professionals in liability claims.

Next Previous
View All Attorneys
View All Practice Areas
View Blog