HANS references Informed Consent regularly. Promoting and protecting Informed Consent is a significant piece of what we do; in fact, according to a survey we conducted in 2017, it’s our members’ primary health-related concern. Despite it being a vitally important topic to the HANS community, not everyone is aware of how Informed Consent is legally and ethically defined.
In a medical context, Consent is the accepted principle that “every human being of adult years and of sound mind has the right to determine what shall be done with his or her body”. The principle that physicians may do nothing to or for a patient without valid consent is applicable not only to surgical procedures, but to all forms of treatment and diagnostic procedures. Discussion with the patient and consent from the patient are required for:
- physical examinations
- taking blood
- injecting vaccines or other drugs
- exposing the patient to radiation as a part of investigation
- medications including interactions with other drugs
From a legal perspective, the following critera must be met in determining Informed Consent
- The patient must be informed of material risks and potential disabilities
- The patient must be given an opportunity to ask questions.
- The patient must have his or her questions answered.
- The patient must be advised of all alternatives available.
- The patient must be given the option or informed of the consequences of no treatment at all.
Of course, consequent to the practice of Informed Consent is Informed Refusal. Patients being of adult years and sound mind have the right to refuse treatment even when it is necessary to preserve his or her life and health.
The concepts of Informed Consent and Informed Refusal are logical, and notwithstanding atypical circumstances (e.g. minor abortion, right-to-death, early dementia, minor mental health and custodial issues) clearly defined.
According to the Canadian Medical Protection Association (CMPA), Consent must be voluntary, the patient must have the capacity to consent and the patient must be properly informed:
“Patients must always be free to consent to or refuse treatment, and be free of any suggestion of duress or coercion. Consent obtained under any suggestion of compulsion either by the actions or words of the physician or others may be no consent at all and therefore may be successfully repudiated.”