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Information about a prescribed drug's side effects is usually in an insert of the drug's packaging. Much of the information is not easily understood to an average patient. (OK, I'm a bit "above average" b/c I read about a lot of meds and I ask my doctor friends some questions.)

We know that there is a general requirement to act morally and for a doctor to promote the health and healing of his patients to the best of his ability. By prescribing the meds in the first place, the doctor has probably accomplished this. He has assumed that all patients would also be self-responsible by reading the insert and / or asking the pharmacist about side-effects.

When a doctor prescribes a medication, is he halachically required to tell you about the drug's side effects before you use the drug? Or, can he assume that you will read and understand what's in the insert?

Your answer can account for the doctor's possible halachic liability for damages for not informing you, if this is one of other possible reasons that require him to tell you.

Notes:

You need not assume that the patient is critically ill and / or close to death. (Those conditions may affect your answer, BTW.)

Even if we assume a general rule that patients have the responsibility to read the insert, much of what is in a typical insert is too technical, and patients may not understand some things that may be critical to them. Some things may have been omitted. For example, I have not seen a warning on statins that one should avoid eating grapefruit products, excessively. Is a doctor responsible for warning the patient of such things, or should he assume that a pharmacist would do this? (Some do, some don't)

  • I dont understand the question. Every person is different some do and some dont read the insert. One cant make a general rule. – cham May 13 '15 at 21:48
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    What kind of side-effects are we talking about here? Some drugs have side-effects that will almost certainly affect the patient's ability to go about their daily business (think narcotic painkillers). Other drugs have the potential to cause minor side effects (something like mildly itchy skin), though in reality the effects only affect some small percentage of people. The halakha could easily be different in those different cases. – Daniel Jun 8 '16 at 16:03
  • Side effects are very numerous and there are frequent, rare, very rare, single repports. To explain all the possible side effects regardless to the frequency is almost impossible. To talk about frequent side effects is an obbligation obviously, the patient must to be informed in way to decide if he will keep the treatment. – kouty Jun 13 '16 at 8:33
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Mikaan sheniten reshus leropheh lerapos, a doctor has permission to cure you but not cause other ailment. For this they would need to ask permission.

I.e. when the doctor prescribes the drug it is as if they are giving it to you directly so would be a mazik if it had side-effects you were not made aware of.

  • How do you know this? Perhaps it's assumed that medication has side affects and your hiring is implicit permission? – Double AA Jun 8 '16 at 1:25
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    I agree with pcoz. In most cases, people assume that the side effects are something minor, like drowsiness. Besides, (almost) nobody reads those inserts, anyway. Halachah does recognize v'asisa hayashar v'hatov (Devarim 6:18), which Rashi (to the passuk and to BM 35a) explains refers to lifnim mishuras hadin. So even if a doctor isn't obligated to inform the patient, he certainly should. – DonielF Jun 8 '16 at 1:44
  • The bounty period has expired. I think the rules state that since you have the only answer, you get awarded the bounty, anyway. However, I was hoping for a stronger answer. I partially agree with what @DonielFilreis stated. I think part of a doctor's responsibility is to treat the patient and not generically. I.e. - he needs to know the patient's specific medical history and make a best diagnosis for that person. Thus, if there are side effects or symptoms that would be highly likely to damage the patient, he should be obligated to inform him and not assume he will understand the insert. – DanF Jun 16 '16 at 15:15

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