Introduction

Consent is a basic component of many types of every day encounter – but it is particularly relevant to the interaction between an individual and a healthcare professional (or someone acting on their behalf). This is because without consent many actions that are an integral part of healthcare, such as medical examination or treatment, are unlawful. For example, in a treatment setting, consent is required when a person is asked by a healthcare professional to agree to an examination, treatment or care. In research, consent is required when a person is asked to take part in a research study or to allow their identifiable personal information to be used for research purposes. However, consent goes beyond legitimising actions that would otherwise be unlawful.

When a person seeks another’s consent, it shows that they recognise that people should be able to make their own autonomous decisions. It shows respect for another’s right to self-govern, to control their own destiny.

The concept of informed consent builds on this idea and stresses the importance of giving a person making a decision enough relevant information to enable them to make meaningful decisions about themselves and their lives.

Interactive tutorial

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