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  • Writer's pictureCameron Elsworth

Medical Law For Medicine Interviews: Consent

Capacity? Consent? Confidentiality? Similarly sounding terms with important and different meanings. A firm understanding of the most commonly used medico-legal principles will assist you in providing both well-reasoned and factual answers to ethical questions during your medical school interviews. This blog series is intended to provide a comprehensive guide to the medico-legal principles underpinning medical decision making.

The first blog in our series will cover all things consent ! This includes:

· Defining consent

· Methods of giving consent

· The duty of a doctor in obtaining patient consent

Defining Medical Consent - Medical Law

Giving consent means to give permission, consent is required form the patient in most cases before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination. Exceptions to this may include emergency scenarios i.e. where the patient is unconscious, or where the patient does not have capacity.

Consent is required irrespective of the procedure; this applies to small procedures such as a blood test all the way to larger procedures such as surgery. Consent is an important part of medical ethics, to consent is to exercise one’s autonomy. It is also an important principle in human rights law.

How is Medical Consent Given?

Consent can be given:

· Verbally – e.g. a person saying they are happy to have an ECG.

· In writing (essential for major procedures) e.g. a person signing a consent form for a surgery.

· Non-verbally: e.g. holding out their arm for a blood test.

Defining Consent - Medical Law

For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the individual consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.

Voluntary consent means that:

· The decision to consent to or refuse treatment must be made by the patient whilst they are free from internal and external factors influencing their ability to consent.

· Internal factors reducing an individual’s ability to consent may include a learning disability, intoxication or Alzheimers.

· External factors can include pressure from medical staff, friends or family.

Informed consent means that:

· An individual must be given all information on what the treatment involves.

· The risks and benefits of the treatment.

· Alternative options for treatment.

· What will happen if no treatment is given.

The Duty of A Doctor In Obtaining Consent

Doctors have a duty to ensure that their patients give voluntary and informed consent. This means that doctors must:

· Assess a patient’s capacity to ensure that they are capable of giving consent.

· Provide all information on a procedure to ensure they are informed.

· Ensure that the patient is acting voluntarily free from pressure.

Summary of Key Important Principles For Interview

· If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision this must be respected, even if refusing treatment will result in their death.

· Doctors have a duty to fully inform patients to allow them to consent.

Check out our other blog posts on medical law and how to ace the medical law station at your medical school interview -

Get in touch if you have any questions about medical ethics and law. Or if you would like to arrange tutoring or a mock interview!


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