What is informed consent?

Informed consent is an important principle which dictates that an individual must give permission or consent before undergoing any medical treatment, procedure or examination.

From a medical perspective, the clinic or doctor must give a clear explanation what the treatment involves, including any potential risks, before treatment can commence.

These principles of consent form a crucial part of medical ethics and international human rights law.

Principles of Informed Consent

Acquiring informed consent is an ethical and legal obligation upon every clinic before a patient can be treated. Patient consent cannot be considered valid unless it is “informed consent”. As such, the following criteria must be met:

  • Consent is given voluntarily, without any deceit or deliberate coercion
  • Consent is given by the patient or the patient’s representative who has the capacity to do so
  • Consent is given by the patient or the patient’s representative who has been made fully aware of the procedure, potential issues or different treatment options

Consent can either be written, verbal or implied/non-verbal. A written consent might be given by signing a consent form prior to a surgical procedure. And, a non-verbal consent may be in the form of an acknowledgement from the patient; that they understand what treatment or procedure they are about to undergo, such as willingly extending their arm for a blood test.

Importantly a written consent form is not necessarily the actual informed consent, but rather proof that your consent was given, even if you were not informed.

This is a very crucial distinction. Throughout the informed consent process you will be presented with medical and legal consent forms which usually have various sections highlighting the important elements that you need to be aware of, and which you need to acknowledge.

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An open letter to fertility patients: 

Sally Cheshire CBE, Chair HFEA 

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