Consent to treatment
Most patients are capable of understanding the information that doctors and dentists give them and can provide informed consent to treatment.
It is the medical or dental practitioner's responsibility to determine whether a patient is capable of understanding the general nature and effect of the treatment and whether they are able to give a valid consent. If the practitioner believes that a patient is not capable of informed consent they must seek consent from an appropriate substitute decision-maker.
Before the medical or dental practitioner seeks the consent of the substitute decision-maker, they must explain to the substitute decision-maker:
- the particular condition the patient has that requires treatment;
- the nature of the proposed treatment and its effects;
- the risks associated with the proposed treatment;
- alternative treatments (their nature, effects and risks) or the impact of undertaking no treatment.
Substitute consent must be obtained from someone who has legal authority to make medical or dental treatment decisions on behalf of the patient. A substitute decision maker can be:
- their 'person responsible' under the Guardianship Act 1987 or
- the Guardianship Tribunal.
In most cases where substitute consent is required, there will be a 'person responsible'.
An application to the Tribunal is necessary if:
- the treatment is special medical treatment
- the treatment is major medical or dental treatment and there is no person responsible or the person responsible cannot be located or is unwilling or unable to provide consent
- the patient is objecting to the proposed treatment (major or minor) and there is no appointed guardian authorised to override objections.
It is the responsibility of the medical or dental practitioner to identify when consent is required for the proposed treatment and the category of treatment - urgent, major, minor, special. It is also the responsibility of the practitioner to identify the substitute decision maker and to ensure that the substitute decision maker signs the appropriate consent forms before treatment. For more information, please see the Information Sheet - Consent to Medical or Dental Treatment
Applications for consent to treatment can be made by completing application form and submitting it to the Tribunal. To receive the form by post, contact the Tribunal's enquiry service on (02) 9556 7600.