Informed consent

If you are having a treatment which involves risk, you (or your parent/guardian) need to give what is called ‘informed consent’. Consent is a patient’s agreement for a health practitioner to provide treatment – treatment includes any medical or surgical management, care, therapy, test or procedure.

It is your decision whether or not medical treatment takes place. While health practitioners have extensive knowledge of proposed treatments, only you know about your lifestyle and preferences and only you can decide which risks are acceptable to you and which risks are not acceptable.

You also have the right to withdraw your consent at any time prior to the start of the treatment.

Your health practitioner is required to discuss with you or your parent/guardian the pros and cons of the possible treatment options and associated significant risks. This enables you to make the decision that is best for you at that time.

The process and requirements for obtaining patient consent may vary depending on the cognitive state of the patient, but will include the following:

  • a discussion about the pros and cons of the treatment options;
  • disclosure about significant risks for that specific treatment;
  • the patient decision about what course of action to take;
  • the patient’s consent for a specific treatment; and
  • documentation of the consent process by the health practitioner.

Healthcare treatments are often complex and you may receive information that you do not understand at a time when you may be distressed by your condition and diagnosis. Understanding this complex information is crucial to the decisions you make.

When the treatment is not urgent, you should take your time to consider the information you have been given by your health practitioner. If you do not understand the information, ask questions. If you still do not understand, ask more questions.

The following questions may help you to decide whether or not to undergo a specific treatment:

  • What's wrong with me?
  • Exactly what treatment are you proposing?
  • What are my treatment options? Is there any alternative treatment?
  • Why do you think this treatment is right for me?
  • Is this treatment new or uncommon or experimental?
  • Is there sufficient research to support the proposed treatment?
  • How many times have you carried out this treatment yourself?
  • What is the usual rate of success? What is the likelihood that the treatment/procedure will be successful?
  • Do you have any other information that will help me to make an informed decision?
  • What are the expected outcomes of the procedure/treatment?
  • What complications could occur?
  • What limitations could this procedure/treatment have on my daily life afterwards?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • How much will this procedure cost? Will my health fund cover the cost?
  • What drugs will I be given and what effect will they have?
  • How long will I be unwell or unable to work?
  • Could I have a second opinion?
  • If I sign this - what am I agreeing to?
  • Can you explain everything again in a way that I can understand?
Last Updated: 01/10/2021