Consent to treatment is the principle that a person must give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination and is generally requested on the basis that an explanation of the required treatment, test or procedure has been received from a Clinician.
Consent from a patient is needed regardless of the procedure, whether it’s a physical examination, organ donation or something else.
The principle of consent is an important part of medical ethics and international human rights laws.
How consent is given
Consent can be given:
verbally– for example, by saying you are happy to have an X-ray
in writing– for example, by signing a Consent Form for surgery to be performed
Someone could also give non-verbal consent, as long as they understand the treatment or examination about to take place – for example, holding out an arm for a blood test.
Consent should be given to the Healthcare Professional directly responsible for the person’s current treatment, such as:
- a Nurse arranging a blood test
- a GP prescribing new medication
If a patient changes their mind at any point before the procedure, they are entitled to withdraw their previous consent.
There are certain circumstances where treatment may be administered to patients who refuse to provide consent.
Consent from children and young people
When treating patients under 18, consent must be obtained from:
- Someone with parental responsibility for them
- A person aged 16 or 17 if they are deemed capable of making informed decisions, or
- Someone under 18 if they are deemed Gillick competent. That is, they have the maturity and intelligence to fully understand the nature of the treatment, the options, the risks involved and the benefits.
Patients who lack capacity
Patients who lack capacity should not be denied necessary treatment simply because they are unable to consent to it. However, in Northern Ireland there is no statutory provision to allow for someone to provide consent for medical examinations, care or treatment on behalf of an adult without capacity. Some exceptions to this, where healthcare professionals may intervene and provide care to patients without capacity.
If you believe you’ve received treatment you didn’t consent to, you can make an official complaint by writing to your Practice Manager, who will assist you with this process.