12 Key points on CONSENT: the law in England
(Dept. of Health 2003)
When do Health Professionals need consent from patients?
1. Before you examine, treat or care for competent adult patients you must obtain their consent 2. Adults are always assumed to be competent unless demonstrated otherwise. If you have doubts about their competence, the question to ask is: “can this patient understand and weigh up the information needed to make a decision?” Unexpected decisions do not prove the patient is incompetent, but may indicate a need for further information or explanation. 3. Patients may be competent to make some health care decisions, even if they are not competent to make others. 4. Giving and obtaining consent is usually a process, not a one-off-event. Patients can change their minds and withdraw consent at any time. If there is any doubt, you should always check that the patient still consents to your caring for or treating them.
Can children consent for themselves?
5. Before examining, treating or caring for a child, you must also seek consent. Young people aged 16 and 17 are presumed to have the competence to give consent for themselves. Younger children who understand fully what is involved in the proposed procedure can also give consent (although their parents will ideally be involved) In other cases, someone with parental responsibility must give consent on the child’s behalf, unless they cannot be reached in an emergency. If a competent child consents to treatment, a parent cannot over-ride that consent. Legally, a parent can consent if a competent child refuses, but it is likely that taking such a serious step will be rare.
Who is the right person to seek consent?
6. It is always best for the person actually treating the patient to seek the patient’s consent. However, you may seek consent on behalf of colleagues if you are capable of performing the procedure in question, or if you have been specially trained to seek consent for...
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