Consent to Medical Treatment in Ireland
Correct as of December 2012. The right of Sandy Anthony to be identified as the author of the text of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
- Consent is needed for all clinical examinations, investigations and treatment.
- Adult patients who can decide for themselves need sufficient information and, whenever possible, time to make a choice.
- A patient’s capacity to make decisions depends on being able to:
- understand what decision needs to be made and why
- appreciate the likely consequences of making or not making a decision
- understand, retain, use and weigh up relevant information
- communicate a decision in a meaningful way.
- Patients should be given all information material to their decision before deciding which option to choose.
- Patients should not be pressurised into making a decision, but must be aware of any potential harm that may come from delay.
- Young people of 16 or over can consent to treatment on their own behalf but it is not yet clear if they can refuse treatment if they are under 18.
- Consent for treatment of a child under the age of 16 should usually be sought from the child’s parent/guardian, but there may be circumstances in which the consent of a mature minor on his/her own is sufficient.
- Consent to clinical examination, some investigations and treatment, is often implied by the patient’s co-operation and does not have to be expressly stated.
- Signed consent forms alone are not proof that consent was valid.
- A significant proportion of clinical negligence claims include allegations of failure to obtain valid consent.