Case Law Research on Informed Consent

Informed consent is a basic requirement for many medical procedures. Jessica De Bord, in her article about informed consent, gives it this definition:

Informed consent is the process by which the treating healthcare provider discloses appropriate information to a competent patient so that the patient may make a voluntary choice to accept or refuse treatment. It originates from the legal and ethical right the patient has to direct what happens to her body and from the ethical duty of the physician to involve the patient in her health care. (2014, para. 2)

In order to receive informed consent from a patient, and in order for the patient to be an active and informed participant, involved in the process of making decisions with regard to his or her own health, several key matters must be explained and discussed. The patient must be apprised of the nature of the procedure that he or she is going to undergo. If there are any alternatives to the proposed course of action, the patient must be informed of them, and all the details clarified beforehand. Any risks and drawbacks that might happen during or after the procedure must be mentioned. The physician must then make sure that the patient has properly understood the information.

However, despite the law on informed consent being present in every one of the United States, it can be broken, or not taken into consideration, from time to time. A prime example of this is the Louisiana case of Roberson v. Provident House, 576 So. 2d 992, 1991. The summary of the case is as follows: The plaintiff, Mr. Roberson, had lost the use of his arms and legs ever since having been shot during a robbery. In March 1982, Dr. Brenner, a physician working for the Provident House, had taken him on as a patient. Due to the external catheter, which is a device used to drain a person’s bladder from the outside, being inoperative, a decision was made to use an internal catheter. Instead of being fitted over the penis, it is inserted through the urinal tract, a very uncomfortable procedure. When the nurse came over to fit the internal catheter inside, Mr. Roberson protested. He did not wish to undergo the procedure, as it was painful. Despite the man’s refusal, the nurse ignored his wishes. She told him to “shut up.” The procedure was repeated several times, despite the plaintiff’s objections. During his stay in a hospital in Memphis, a doctor warned him that an internal catheter might cause complications and trauma due to muscle spasms of the canal. This practice continued until May 19, 1982, when a disgruntled nurse pulled it out with force, which caused a spasm and internal bleeding. The trauma leads to Mr. Roberson’s hospitalization, and serious complications involving his bladder and his ability to urinate.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana concluded that the nurse was guilty of battery. According to the doctrine regarding informed consent, which is accepted in Louisiana, “every adult being in of sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done to his or her own body” (James Roberson v. Provident House, 2015). The reason for the decision was based on the fact that the Court was presented with abundant evidence confirming that Mr. Roberson did not give consent for the procedure, and instead objected to it multiple times.

I think that the decision made by the Supreme Court of Louisiana was correct. Despite the plaintiff being quadriplegic, he was still of a sound mind, and thus the medical personnel of Provident House was obligated to receive his consent prior to conducting the procedure. They did not do that. Instead, they proceeded anyway, despite Mr. Roberson’s vocal and repetitive rejection of the treatment.


De Bord, J. (2014). Informed Consent. Web.

James Roberson v. Provident House. (2015). Web.

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NursingBird. "Case Law Research on Informed Consent." December 13, 2021.