Informed consent is both an ethical and legal obligation of a medical provider. The origin comes from advocating for the patient’s right to determine what happens to their own health and medical conditions. The medical provider will educate the patient on 1) The nature of the intervention, 2) The risks and benefits, 3) The alternatives of a medical procedure and/or intervention, and 4) Assessment of the patients understanding.

  • The nature of the intervention- The patient should understand relevant medical information.
  • The Risks and Benefits- All the good, the bad, and the ugly should be disclosed. Ask worst case and best case scenario. Ask for data and their professional experience.
  • The alternatives of the intervention- All options should be disclosed. Ask…. Is this my only option? Is there anything else that can be done?
  • Assessment of knowledge- It is often difficult to comprehend and recall information given during informed consent. It is so important to not make any decisions until you absorbed the information. When my daughter was initially going through her diagnosis, I brought one of my medical friends with us to help us absorb what was happening. Recall and summarize to the provider to confirm your understanding.

Types of Consent

  • Implied Consent- This type of interaction usually occurs during a physical exam. By allowing the exam, you are giving consent.
  • Written consent- This type of consent occurs with invasive procedures with more risks involved such as surgery or procedures.
  • Emergency Consent- This type of consent occurs when treatment is immediate and a patient surrogate/guardian is not present.

The 4 principles of informed consent

  • Decision making- The capacity to understand the options and consequences.
  • Disclosure- Providing information regarding the benefits and the risks involved making an informed decision.
  • Comprehension- Explained in language or terminology that is understood.
  • Voluntarily granting consent- Without coercion or duress. Any patient who is legally competent to be making medical decisions has the right to consent and refuse any and all treatment, even if this may result in serious consequences such as death. Not only is consent freely given, it can also be freely withdrawn at any point during treatment.

Children are an exception

Minors cannot give consent and therefore a parent/legal guardian may do so. However, a pediatric patient should participate in the decision-making process whenever reasonable. It is important to educate the pediatric population on body autonomy. It is crucial to provide disclosure of diagnostics and treatment information allowing choices of care when possible. Children and teens should be a part of any plan of care.

Health Care Surrogate

Having a health care surrogate is so important for patients who are not capable of giving informed consent. It is vital to have the surrogate be apart of the ongoing health care plan so they are readily informed on the patients wishes. Choosing someone that knows you well is always a good idea so they can advocate your wishes.


The right to consent is a basic patient right by providing enough information to make an informed decision. You are your child’s number one advocate. Ask the why and understand all your options before making any health care related decisions.

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