Medical Protection has welcomed proposals by the GMC to update their guidance on Decision making and consent.
Consent is one of the cornerstones of the doctor-patient relationship - doctors should feel empowered to have the flexibility to provide patients with the information that they need to make decisions about their healthcare in a way in which they will understand
Obtaining informed consent is also one of the biggest challenges doctors face as healthcare delivery constantly evolves. It is also an area that has been subject to recent legal scrutiny. The case of Montgomery V Lanarkshire Health Board in 2015 changed the law on informed consent following a Supreme Court judgement. Since this landmark ruling, doctors must ensure that patients are aware of any material risks involved in a proposed treatment, and of reasonable alternatives.
Medical Protection has welcomed the proposed changes to GMC guidance on consent, which was last updated in 2008. The proposed updated guidance is not overly prescriptive and is based on principles rather than on rules.
Every consent scenario is different, therefore the principles that underpin good decision-making and consent should be sufficiently robust, so that doctors know when and how to provide the patient with the information they require. The framework and principles set out in the draft guidance allow for a case-by-case assessment from a doctor and Medical Protection welcomes the over-arching approach the GMC has taken.
There is however some scope to provide some specific scenarios (separate to the guidance) to illustrate specific consent issues.
Commenting on the consultation response, Dr Richard Stacey, Head of Policy and Technical at Medical Protection said:
“Medical Protection welcomes the GMC’s efforts in updating the consent guidance to help doctors practise ethically and in line with the evolving healthcare environment.
“In response to the consultation, we suggested that the GMC provide a few examples of scenarios or case studies, so doctors can better understand what is expected from them in certain situations.
“In its draft guidance the GMC proposes to move reference to jurisdiction from the main guidance to a legal annex - Medical Protection believes this is a pragmatic and sensible approach. A mechanism would have to be put in place to ensure that the legal annex could be updated promptly as case law evolves.
“Consent is one of the cornerstones of the doctor-patient relationship - doctors should feel empowered to have the flexibility to provide patients with the information that they need to make decisions about their healthcare in a way in which they will understand.
“We believe that the new guidance will be much more meaningful for doctors in today’s practice, taking full account of new case law.
“We look forward to the publication of the final guidance following the outcome of the consultation. We expect this to be published in the autumn.”
Notes to editors
The GMC consultation Decision making and consent: Supporting patient choices about health and care was published in October 2018.
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