On December 16, 2013, Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker signed a new law, 2013 Wisconsin Act 111, changing the requirement that physicians give patients information about alternative ways to treat their medical conditions. The law leaves to physicians the decision what a patient should know about his medical treatment instead of providing patients with all options and treatment alternatives.
The bill shifts the requirement for informing patients about alternate treatment methods from a “reasonable patient” standard to a “reasonable physician” standard. The law now allows a doctor to disclose only treatment alternatives that a reasonable physician in the same medical specialty would disclose under the circumstances. Before enactment of the law, a doctor was required to provide treatment information necessary for a “reasonable patient” to make an intelligent decision relative to his/her treatment choices. For more information, including a brief description of the Act, see Wisconsin Legislative Council Act Memo. In addition, families and patients will not have to be advised of potential life-saving treatments for conditions that the doctor has ruled out in the diagnostic process.
Personal injury attorneys statewide have criticized the law, arguing that “this means patients must be smarter about their own medical care,” according to Wisconsin Association of Justice President, Christopher Stombaugh. “Instead of trusting the doctor to explain all of a patient’s options, patients now have to dig deeper, ask more questions and become smarter medical consumers.”
Attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel, a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum, advises patients and families of those seeking medical care to be vigilant when determining treatment options and alternatives. This new Wisconsin law changes the duty of physicians to inform patients of alternative treatments.