Consent to treatment means permission given to the person before they receive any medical treatment or examination. Consent is needed for the physical examination, donation of an organ, or for any other similar purpose from the patient. The principle of ‘consent’ is an essential part of medical ethics and international human rights law. Legally, consent means when two parties discuss and agree upon the same thing in the corresponding sense.
It is necessary to obtain consent before conducting any medical procedure on a patient. The consent may be expressed or implied in nature. The consent can be in the form of voluntary consent, informed consent and capacity of the approval.
Voluntary Consent - To give consent for the treatment, the decision should be taken by the person who is not influenced or pressurized by any medical staff, friends or family.
Informed Consent - The patient must be informed about the treatment proposed to be given by explaining him the risks and benefits or the alternative treatment and consequences.
Express Consent - Express consent is stated in the verbal or written form. It must be obtained for all major diagnostics, anaesthesia and surgical procedures as it is the most specific form of consent.
Capacity - The patient must be proficient of giving consent for the treatment. If an adult can make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected.
If the person says that he is happy to remove the X-ray to check the difficulty and the pain he is suffering, it is a verbal consent. Whereas if the patient gives a signature on the consent form of surgery, then it is the written form of consent.
What if the patient is not capable of giving consent?
- If the patient is not in a condition to express his consent, even if he is capable of giving permission, the following exceptions can be laid.
- If the patient needs emergency treatment to save his life, but he is unconscious at the point, later, the reasons why treatment was necessary should be fully explained to him when he recovers.
- If the patient needs an additional emergency procedure or treatment during an operation, the medical practitioner treating the patient has to give the unambiguous medical reason stating why it was unsafe to wait for the consent for the particular treatment.
- If the person is suffering from a severe mental health condition and cannot give consent for the treatment for their mental health (under the Mental Health Act 1983), in this case, the consent for the treatment of unrelated physical conditions is required, which the patient can give despite his mental illness.
- If the person has attempted suicide or self-harmed and needs the treatment for a severe mental health condition and is refusing treatment (under the Mental Health Act 1983), then the closest relative or an approved social worker may make an application for the person to be forcibly kept in hospital for assessing the condition of the patient.
- If the patient is ill and lives in unhygienic condition (under the National Assistance Act 1948), they can be taken to a hygienic place without their consent.