Must Oklahoma Doctors Explain Why They Should Not Treat?

Physicians diagnosed Bob Parris with prostate cancer, and following therapy and surgery, tests confirmed that Parris was cancer free, but he continued treating with his doctor for the next five years.  Parris claims that his doctor never told him that he was cancer free, and he later filed suit against the doctor alleging that he would have stopped treatment if he knew about the test results.  On March 6, 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that Mr. Parris is entitled to a jury trial on the issue of informed consent. 

In Parris v. Limes, 2012 OK 18, the Court affirmed that Oklahoma physicians have an “affirmative duty” not only to disclose what they intend to do, but to supply information which addresses the question of whether they should do it. 

The obligation to inform patients about the risks associated with a particular course of treatment is intended to give the patient all the facts necessary to make an informed decision about their own treatment.  The Parris Court declined to adopt the standard of disclosure based upon the custom and usage of the local community, and it reaffirmed that the duty to disclose is based upon what is reasonable under the circumstances:

 “[T]he scope of a physician’s communications must be measured by his patient’s need to know enough [information] to enable him to make an intelligent choice.”

The Parris decision merely reaffirmed well-settled Oklahoma law, but it serves as a reminder to physicians of their affirmative obligation under Oklahoma law to fully disclose not only what they intend to do, but whether they should do it.