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.

Fertility News

What is a fertility doctor’s duty?

The subject of this year’s Progress Educational Trust annual conference, entitled ‘Reality Check’, was ‘a realistic look at assisted reproduction’. The choice of focus was motivated by ongoing controversy surrounding so-called ‘IVF add-ons’. These are defined by the HFEA as ‘optional extras that you may be offered on top of your normal fertility treatment, often at an additional cost’.

Does fertility treatment still need to be a medical secret?

The latest meeting organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET) asked the question ‘Does fertility treatment still need to be a medical secret?’ The event in Edinburgh last week, held in partnership with the Scottish Government, took place off the Royal Mile – through a narrow alleyway in Riddle’s Court, one of the many old and imposing buildings scattered throughout the city.

Cancer doctors hesitate to discuss fertility issues with young women

Although cancer doctors know it’s important to talk about fertility concerns with young women patients, they may feel uncomfortable and unprepared to discuss the issue, a study in Canada suggests.

Book Review: Egg Freezing, Fertility and Reproductive Choice – Negotiating Responsibility, Hope and Modern Motherhood

Over the last decade the number of women who have opted to freeze their eggs for social reasons has risen exponentially. Nevertheless, there is still much to learn about why women decide to freeze their eggs, how they perceive the risks and benefits of this reproductive option, and what effect egg freezing has on the subsequent life trajectory of these women and society in general.
Appeared in BioNews 1023

Fertility information: Giving young cancer patients the chance to have children

Young people with cancer are potentially being robbed of the ability to have children as important information around fertility is not being communicated at the earliest opportunity says the cancer charity, Teenage Cancer Trust

Forgeries of Happiness: Dishonesty and Deceit in IVF

Happily fraud, dishonesty and forgery are seldom features of IVF treatment.

But on rare occasions (and for widely differing reasons), some patients are not wholly transparent or honest in their engagement with clinics.

Podcast Review: Global infertility – Could The Handmaid’s Tale become reality?

The BBC’s World Service weekly podcast series, CrowdScience, invites listeners to pose questions about life, Earth and the universe. To find answers, they interview experts at the frontiers of knowledge.
Appeared in BioNews 1014, 9 September 2019

Podcast review: Egg freezing, fertility and IVF

The Sista Collective is the ‘BBC’s first homegrown podcast led and hosted by black British women’. This podcast was created by Jessie Aru-Phillips who is a journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live with hopes of exploring what it means to be a woman of colour living in the UK today.
Appeared in BioNews 1007, 22 July 2019

Is the UK fertility sector facing a tipping point?

Rarely a day goes by without the UK media mentioning assisted reproduction and the fertility sector. Whether it’s the latest research innovation, the growth in DNA testing and matching websites, the funding and commissioning of fertility services or reports of patients confused as to whether they should pay for expensive and unproven add-on treatments. Most of the headlines aren’t positive for the fertility sector or those who undergo treatment.

ICSI no better than IVF for routine infertility cases

Reporting from the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology’s 2019 annual meeting in Vienna

The increasingly popular technique ICSI has no advantages over IVF in treating cases not related to male infertility, according to a new study.
A second study suggests that ICSI may not even have benefits over IVF more generally, when it comes to the birth of babies resulting from treatment.

By Shaoni Bhattacharya