Consent to Medical Treatment

Everyone has the legal right to decide what can be done with his or her own body. This is called autonomy. Because of this legal right, your doctors need your permission, (the legal term is consent) before they can treat you.

What is informed consent?

You can only give valid permission if you are provided with all the information that is necessary to make a decision about the proposed medical treatment. It is not acceptable for your doctor to simply ask if he or she has your permission to perform a medical procedure.

You must be able to understand the reasonable and foreseeable consequences of giving permission (consent), or not giving permission, for the medical procedure.

It is generally accepted that in order to provide proper permission for medical treatment your doctor must explain:

  • The nature of the proposed medical procedure;
  • The reasonable alternatives to the proposed medical procedure; and
  • The relevant risks, benefits, and uncertainties related to each alternative.

Your permission or consent may be expressed in words or implied by your actions. For example, when you are undergoing a surgical procedure your doctor will usually get you to sign a consent form as part of the consent process to confirm your permission to perform the medical procedure.

Any medical procedure that is performed without proper informed consent is deemed to be an assault. The doctor who performed the medical procedure will be responsible for any injury suffered by the patient as a result of the medical procedure.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to win medical malpractice cases involving allegations of informed consent. Often the question of whether the risks were properly explained to the patient boils down to the doctor’s word against the patient.

In most of the reported medical malpractice cases across Canada, judges and juries tend to favour the doctors word, unless there is clear evidence to support the patient’s version of events.

Therefore, it is important to document the consent process by making notes of any discussions that you have with your doctor before you undergo a medical procedure. Particularly any discussion you have with your doctor about the risks, benefits and alternatives of the proposed medical procedure.

Can We Help You?

If you think you need our help, you can contact medical malpractice lawyer John McKiggan Q.C. online or by calling (877) 423-2050 or toll free at (877) 423-2050.

You can also get more free information on John’s Halifax Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog.

You may also want to read John McKiggan’s book Health Scare: The Consumer’s Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada. You can buy a copy on (all sale proceeds are donated to charity) or you can get a free copy by contacting us through our website.

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