About medical consent
Doctors and dentists (‘registered practitioners’) need a patient’s agreement (‘consent’) before performing medical or dental treatment.
If a patient is incapacitated, consent is not needed where there are reasonable grounds that emergency treatment is necessary to:
- save the patient’s life
- prevent serious damage to the patient's health
- prevent suffering from significant pain or distress
If a patient is incapacitated, consent is also not needed for:
- providing first aid
- administering a prescribed drug within recommended dosages
- a non-intrusive examination such as a visual examination.
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For health professionals
Health professions need to know if their adult patient can consent to treatment and the steps and forms required.
Consenting to treatment
To give consent, the patient must be 18 years of age or older, and be able to understand, retain, evaluate and weigh up information about the general nature and effect of the proposed procedure and communicate their decision.
If a patient is unable to consent to treatment there is a hierarchy of people who can make medical and dental treatment decisions on behalf of the patient. The person highest on this list of people is known as the person responsible.
To refuse treatment, the patient must be 18 years of age or older, and be able to understand, retain, evaluate and weigh up relevant information. There is a form that must be signed and witnessed.
If a person lacks capacity to make a decision then treatment can be refused on their behalf by an agent or guardian with relevant powers