Friday, January 27, 2012

Elements of Valid Consent

For consent to be valid it needs to be freely given; this includes avoiding pressuring a patient through failure to provide sufficient time for the patient to consider matters and involve disclosure by the doctor of the relevant (material) issues.

The consent must be specific for the proposed procedure(s). The catch-all phrase 'any other procedures which may be deemed necessary' should only be used in regard to unforeseen and urgent problems and if it is used a note should be made of the matters discussed under this phrase.
The consent must be given by a person who is competent to consent. Under ordinary circumstance, a husband does not have the legal power to give consent on behalf of his wife, a wife on behalf of her husband or children on behalf of their parents. Parents can generally consent to medical procedures for their children provided that the proposed procedure is in the child's 'best interests'.
To be legally competent to give consent, a patient must generally be an adult (eighteen years of age or over). The patient must also have the cognitive capacity to understand the medical condition, the options for treatment, what the doctor is recommending, any material risk and what may happen if no treatment is given. The treating doctor is responsible for assessing in each case whether the patient is competent to understand. A higher level of understanding is required for more complex or risky procedures.

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