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Informed Consent

What Is Informed Consent?

Doctors will give you information about a particular treatment or test in order for you to decide whether or not you wish to undergo such treatment or test. This process of understanding the risks and benefits of treatment is known as informed consent. It is based on the moral and legal premise of patient autonomy: You as the patient have the right to make decisions about your own health and medical conditions.

  • You must give your voluntary, informed consent for treatment and for most medical tests and procedures. The legal term for failing to obtain informed consent before performing a test or procedure on a patient is called battery (a form of assault).

    • For many types of interactions (for example, a physical exam with your doctor), implied consent is assumed.

    • For more invasive tests or for those tests or treatments with significant risks or alternatives, you will be asked to give explicit (written) consent.

  • Under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to the informed consent rule. The most common exceptions are these:

    • An emergency in which medical care is needed immediately to prevent serious or irreversible harm

    • Incompetence in which someone is unable to give permission (or to refuse permission) for testing or treatment

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