Medical consent

Medical consent

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Registered doctors and dentists (practitioners) cannot treat a patient without valid agreement (called consent) from the patient to undertake the treatment.

A person over the age of 18 can consent to treatment or refuse medical treatment if they have capacity. Capacity is defined as the ability to reason things out; to understand, retain, believe, evaluate and weigh relevant information. A person may lose capacity to make decisions permanently or temporarily, due to accident or illness.

A person consenting to or refusing medical treatment, dental treatment, and/or participation in medical research, must be able to understand the information about the procedures involved and make reasonable choices based on this.

If a person cannot understand the information regarding the proposed treatment given to them by the medical practitioner, and it is determined they lack capacity, another person must make decisions on their behalf.

Click here for a list of people who can make these decisions

When is consent not needed?

The only time consent is not needed is where:
• There is a medical or dental emergency
• This means treatment is needed to prevent death, serious damage to the patient's health, or suffering from significant pain or distress.
• The treatment is minor. For example a visual examination of the patient's mouth, providing first aid, or the administration of a prescribed drug within recommended dosages.

What if the person who needs treatment cannot give consent?

If a patient cannot consent to their own treatment, the practitioner can obtain consent from the 'person responsible'.

Medical consent and OPA

If there is no person responsible, the dentist or medical practitioner must submit a Section 42K Notice to the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA).

If the medical procedure is being carried out for the purposes of medical research, the practitioner must submit a Section 42T Certificate to OPA.