Nursing and Consent

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Topic: Choose an aspect of the law and discuss this in relation to the role of the nurse. (Consent)
Word Count: 1,146 (One thousand, one hundred and forty six)

There are a number of legal and ethical duties expected of nurses. Most of these involve care for patient’s autonomy and confidentiality despite the medical care. Failure to act regarding these can give rise to liability. One aspect of Patient’s autonomy involves giving or withholding his consent about treatment. This paper takes into account ‘consent’ as the aspect of law regarding nursing.
Consent is defined by NHS Choices (2010) as: "the principle that a person must give their permission before they receive any type of medical treatment.”1
Under the Nursing and Midwifery Council (hereafter NMC) code of conduct (enforced in May, 2008) the patient can either extend or withdraw his consent regarding treatment after which he should be or cannot be treated as per his wishes respectively. Cowan (2009) observed that the idea underlying this is to empower patient to acknowledge the treatment options available to them and choose whether or not they want to have it. Therefore, a nurse cannot administer the treatment to a patient if he withholds his consent about the treatment.
As per NMC, there are three “over-riding professional responsibilities” to obtain a valid consent. These are quoted as below:
“To make the care of people their first concern and ensure they gain consent before they begin any treatment or care.”2
“Ensure that the process of establishing consent is rigorous, transparent and demonstrates a clear level of professional accountability.”3
“Accurately record all discussions and decisions relating to obtaining consent.”4
The NMC Code (2008) also states that, “make the care of people your first concern, treating them as individuals and respecting their dignity.” Scott (et al. 2003)



References: Booth, S., (2002) in a philosophical analysis of informed consent in Nursing Standard, vol: 16, No: 39, 43-46. DOH- Department of Health, (2001) in: Younger children in seeking consent: working with children, Crown Copyright. Tomkin, D., and Hanafin, P., (1995) in Irish medical law. Dublin: Round Hall Sweet & Maxwell Websites:

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