Every patient has a right to know the details of the health care they are receiving.
Doctors should give a clear, concise explanation in non-medical terms of your condition, problem or disease and the proposed treatment or procedures. This way you, the patient, can make an informed decision about the treatment you are about to undergo.
Information provided should include:
- the reason for the proposed treatment
- the risks involved
- the expected benefits
- alternative treatment options
- whether the procedure is irreversible
- the time involved in the procedure
- the likely recovery period
- any costs involved
- any follow up care that may be required
If this information is not provided to you – ask. Discussion of the treatment and material risks should take place sometime before the proposed treatment or procedure. Should proposed treatment not be acceptable to you, you can refuse it.
- You can choose to seek a second opinion of any medical matter you feel unsure about.
- You can have as much time as you need to make your decision. You do not have to say yes immediately after receiving the necessary information.
- Withdrawal of consent or refusal of further treatment is the prerogative of the patient.
- If you require access to your medical records in making your decision, please discuss this with your medical practitioner.
- You also have a right to know the costs involved before the treatment begins; and if you are unable or unwilling to meet the costs of private treatment, you can request a referral to a public hospital facility.
- You should be informed of the hazards and benefits of any drug prescribed for you. All significant side effects should be disclosed.
- Where proposed treatment is experimental or is to be part of medical research, the patient has the right to refuse.
Consent: what it means
No medical service can be carried out unless you, the patient, give permission for the service to proceed.
By consenting, you are exercising control over what happens to your body. It is your decision, therefore it is your responsibility to obtain as much information as you consider necessary. If you do not understand any detail of your condition or the procedures being used or the drugs being administered – ASK MORE QUESTIONS. If you are not sure whether you have been told all the possible risks associated with the treatment you are to receive – ASK “Are there any other ill effects that haven’t been mentioned?”
UNDERSTANDING is crucial to the decision you will make.
Consent in the treatment of minors
A minor (less than 18 years) requires consent from a parent or guardian before treatment can commence, with the exception of emergency or where treatment is of a minor nature. A child can consent to their own treatment as long as they are of sufficient maturity to fully comprehend and understand the consequences (this would be assessed). When a parent or guardian consents to treatment on behalf of a minor, they must be given all relevant information to assist them in their decision making.
Consent from the non-English speaker
Consent should only be given by the non-English speaker after an interpreter has been called in and when the patient is satisfied that enough information has been given to make an informed decision. The interpreter should preferably be someone who is familiar with medical terminology and medical procedures and practice.
Consent in emergencies
Where urgent treatment is required to save a patient’s life or prevent harm to his or her health and the patient is not able to consent to the required treatment at the time (for example because the patient is unconscious), the patient is deemed to have consented.
Experimental drugs or procedures
A patient has a legal right to be informed before subjecting themselves to experimental treatment or care. This includes experimental drugs, procedures or therapy. Should students of medicine request to view any procedure, examination or treatment, it is the patient’s right to refuse if they so desire.
What the consent form asks
- Your written consent to one or more specific procedures or treatments.
- Consent to “any other procedure considered necessary”. This usually refers to surgical treatment that was unforseen at the outset of an operation or additional treatment, that was deemed necessary.
- An acknowledgement by you, the patient, that the “nature intended effects and possible unintended effects” of the procedure have been fully explained.
- Consent to someone other than your usual doctor performing the procedure.
- A witness signature by you.