Consent to treatment is the principle that a person must give their permission before they receive any type of medical treatment.
For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision. These terms are explained below.
- Voluntary: the decision to consent or not consent to treatment must be made alone, and must not be due to pressure by medical staff, friends or family.
- Informed: the person must be given full information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead.
- Capacity: the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and they can use it to make an informed decision. Consent should be given to the healthcare professional directly responsible for the person's current treatment, such as the nurse arranging a blood test, the GP prescribing new medication or the surgeon planning an operation.
It can be given:
- non-verbally, for example, raising a hand to indicate they are happy for a nurse to take a blood sample
- in writing, by signing a consent form
- There are a few exceptions when treatment can go ahead without consent.
One main exception is if a person does not have the mental capacity (the ability to understand and use information) to make a decision about their treatment. In this case, the healthcare professionals can go ahead and give treatment if they believe it is in the person’s best interests.
- information taken from NHS Choices website