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- Giving informed consent for treatment
Giving informed consent for treatment
Your doctor needs your agreement (informed consent) before giving you any medical treatment.
Learn more about:
- What information is your doctor required to give you?
- What is informed consent?
- Consent from children and young people
What information is your doctor required to give you?
To help you make a well-informed decision that’s based on your personal values, your doctor is required to give you information about:
- the proposed treatment and its benefits
- other treatment options
- possible side effects, risks and complications
- likely out-of-pocket costs (if any).
This information is generally given in English. If you need an interpreter, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.
What is informed consent?
Receiving and understanding this information before voluntarily agreeing to treatment is called informed consent. You will usually be asked to sign a document indicating that you understand the information you are given and agree to treatment. If you are confused or need more information, talk to your doctor.
Adults (people aged 18 and over) can give their informed consent – or refuse or withdraw consent – if they have capacity (ability to make decisions). This means you can understand and remember information about proposed choices; understand the outcomes of your decision; and communicate your decision. If you do not have capacity, another person may be able to make decisions for you.
Consent is not needed in some instances, such as in a medical emergency or when the patient is unconscious or mentally incapacitated. If your medical team knows that you have recorded an advance care directive, they will take this into account.
Consent from children and young people
As much as possible, children should be involved in decisions about their health care. They should be given age-appropriate information, be included in discussions about their treatment, and be encouraged to ask questions. It is important to ensure that the health care team considers your child’s health care preferences.
As people under the age of 18 are legally considered minors, it’s usually up to their parent or legal guardian to consent to health care (unless there are court orders in place that do not allow this).
Generally, there is no set age at which a child or young person is able to consent to medical treatment under Australian common law. This means a minor may be able to independently consent to or refuse medical treatment if they fully understand the nature and possible results of the proposed treatment.
There are specific requirements in South Australia and Tasmania. In South Australia, a person over the age of 16 years may make their own decisions about medical treatment. In Tasmania, a child may be able to make their own health care decisions if a registered health practitioner is satisfied that the child meets certain requirements.
Talk to a lawyer if you need specific information about health care consent for children and young people in your state or territory.
Each state or territory has different laws about advance care planning and substitute decision-makers. Talk to a lawyer for advice specific to your situation. Cancer Council 13 11 20 may be able to connect you with a lawyer for help appointing a substitute decision-maker. You can also call Advance Care Planning Australia’s advisory service on 1300 208 582.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Prof Sarah Lewis, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, NSW; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Gastro-Intestinal Cancers, Cancer Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Hall & Wilcox (law firm); Johanna Jordaan, Consumer; Dr Deme Karikios, Medical Oncologist, Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre, Nepean Hospital, NSW; Melissa Lawrie, Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse, Cancer Services, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Jacqueline Lesage, Consumer Reviewer, Cancer Voices NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Louise Pellerade, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Andrew Potter, Consumer; Siân Slade, PhD Candidate, Nossal Institute for Global Health and Non-Executive Director (health, disability sectors), VIC; Paula Watt, Clinical Psychologist, WOMEN Centre, WA.
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