LEGAL INSIGHT- WHAT IS INFORMED CONSENT?

By Roxann Van Rugge 2 years ago
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In South Africa, for proper informed consent a patient must have:

  1. knowledge of the nature or extent of the harm or risk;

  2. an appreciation and understanding of the nature of the harm or risk;

  3. consented to the harm or assumed the risk; and

  4. given comprehensive consent (i.e. the consent must extend to the entire transaction and the likely or foreseeable consequences).

The right to informed consent relates to a person’s right to human dignity and autonomy. The relationship between a healthcare practitioner and his or her patient depends on mutual trust and understanding. To establish trust patients must be given enough information to make an informed decision.

The National Health Act states that a healthcare practitioner must always inform a patient of the range of diagnostic procedures and the treatment options available, this includes the benefits of the treatment, the risks and possible consequences of the treatment and the costs associated with the treatment. Only by providing the patient with the above information, can an informed decision be made.

It is important to ensure that consent is obtained voluntarily and without constraint. The patient must understand exactly what he or she is consenting to and be capable of giving informed consent thereto. In certain circumstances, consent should be viewed as an ongoing process because patients are entitled to change their mind and suitable documentation must be kept to record this.

If the patient is unable to provide consent, treatment may continue without consent in a medical emergency. In this emergency situation, treatment would be required because the situation is classified as life-threatening without immediate intervention. The treatment provided must be limited to what is required to save life or to avoid a significant deterioration in the patient’s health. Once the patient has been stabilised and after the emergency, the healthcare practitioner has a duty to inform the patient of what has been done. This must be done as soon as the patient has recovered sufficiently and is able to understand.

To learn more:

Next Biosciences will be hosting an Ethics CPD Event on Informed Consent on Wednesday 23rd August at 6:30pm at the Next Biosciences Laboratory in Midrand, Johannesburg.

Reserve your seat and earn 4 ethics points.

RSVP: rsvp@nextbio.co.za

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 Roxann Van Rugge

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