Decision making and consent

About this guidance

Consent is a fundamental legal and ethical principle. All patients have the right to be involved in decisions about their treatment and care and to make informed decisions if they can. The exchange of information between doctor and patient is essential to good decision making. Serious harm can result if patients are not listened to, or if they are not given the information they need - and time and support to understand it - so they can make informed decisions about their care.

Doctors must be satisfied that they have a patient’s consent or other valid authority before providing treatment or care. The purpose of this guidance is to help doctors to meet this standard. It reflects the ethical principles that underpin good practice.

While the law relating to decision making varies across the UK, this guidance is consistent with the law in all four countries and supports doctors to act within it. Key legislation and case law relating to decision making and consent is summarised in a factsheet available on our website. Doctors are expected to keep up to date with the law and follow our guidance and other regulations that are relevant to their work.* 

The guidance is addressed to doctors but may also be of interest to others.

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Available online at Decision making and consent.