Who can give consent?

Health Care Comments Off

Dr KK Aggarwal

Informed consent is an integral and crucial part of medical treatment today. It is not only a procedural requirement, but also a legal requirement. Not taking consent is gross negligence. Consent has to be taken before starting a treatment or a procedure.

For consent to be valid, it should be voluntary i.e. given without coercion, informed and the patient should be competent to understand the information given.

Consent indicates a respect for patient autonomy, a very important principle of medical ethics. This means that patients have the decision making capacity and doctors need to respect their right to make decision regarding their care. And, no doctor treats a patient without informed consent.

Who can give the consent?

Informed consent must ideally be taken from the patient himself/herself.

In a traditional Indian setting, if the husband is hospitalized, the wife, at times, may not be taken into confidence by the relatives about the gravity of the situation or otherwise. Most often, it is one of the family members who usually sign the consent in such cases.

If the patient is unconscious, then the spouse should authorize one person as a legal heir to take legal decisions, in case the spouse does not want to take decisions or is not informed.

In an emergency situation when the patient is not able to give consent, then treatment may be given without consent, if there is no other person available to give consent. But, the onus lies on the doctor to prove that the treatment given was lifesaving. The facts of the case must be documented.

The Medical Council of India (regulation 7.16) states that “Before performing an operation the physician should obtain in writing the consent from the husband or wife, parent or guardian in the case of minor, or the patient himself as the case may be. In an operation which may result in sterility the consent of both husband and wife is needed”.

The MCI should revisit the regulation 7.16 and come out with a clause of “next of kin” consent or “surrogacy” consent, which should also include “all legal heirs” and not just one as part of the consent.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own