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Joy Hicks

Term of the Week: Consent

By June 22, 2011

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Consent is the voluntary agreement by a person who possesses sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent choice to allow something proposed by another to be performed on himself or herself. There are two types of consent:

  1. Informed consent
  2. Implied consent

Informed consent refers to consent that is received from the patient after receiving detailed knowledge regarding the procedure that will allow the patient to make an informed decision including the potential risks, benefits and alternatives. Implied consent often refers to a life or death situation that requires immediate lifesaving measures to be performed. Although, the patient cannot give consent, medical office or health care professionals are allowed to perform the required procedure in emergency situations. Implied consent also refers to nonemergency situations. A person's actions can imply consent such as voluntarily submitting to a procedure.

The best ways to prove consent is to have the patient sign a written consent that details the procedure being performed. Because verbal consent is difficult to prove, as well as, all parties may not agree on the terms, it may be difficult to prove. The key is accurate documentation. Document everything in the patient's medical record that is discussed between the physician, the nurse and the patient. This confirms that the patient was provided with the information necessary to make an informed decision regarding the care they receive. In instances of implied consent, it is important that the information that supports the emergency condition or the voluntary action is thoroughly documented.


Pozgar, George. Legal and Ethical Issues for Health Care Professionals, 2nd Edition. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 012010.


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