Consent for treatment

Medical and dental treatment requires valid consent from the patient. Informed consent means a patient will be given clear information about what is involved in any proposed treatment and their treatment options. Health care providers need to obtain valid consent from a patient before examining or treating them. If a patient lacks capacity, consent should be sought from the person with the proper authority, except in situations where the treatment is urgent and necessary to save a person’s life or prevent serious damage to their health.

For consent to be valid the provider needs to ensure that the patient has:

  • the capacity to provide consent.
  • a good understanding of any side-effects, risks, benefits and alternatives regarding the proposed treatment.
  • been informed about the fees involved
  • given consent voluntarily, without being pressured.

Health care providers are responsible for providing information, encouraging patients to ask questions and clarifying that the information has been clearly understood.

Patients are responsible for weighing up the available information and making an informed decision.

A person must be able to understand and communicate what they are agreeing to for their consent to be valid. Some people, whether permanently or temporarily, may lack capacity to give consent. Where this is the case a substitute decision maker, with the legal authority to act in the role, may give consent on their behalf.

Children under 14 years of age are considered to lack capacity to consent to their own treatment. Consent for treatment must be obtained from a child’s parent or legal guardian until the child turns 14.

From the age of 14, a minor may be mature enough to give their own consent. Health practitioners should assess whether the young person is capable of consenting and if not, should seek the consent of their parent or guardian. A young person’s valid consent cannot be overruled by their parents.

From 16 years of age, the consent of a young person is generally viewed as sufficient.

The Health Care Complaints Commission can assist with complaints based on concerns that valid consent was not obtained prior to treatment or care being provided to a patient. You can contact our Inquiry Service on 1800 043 159 for more information or make a complaint online.

Still need more information

If you would like to speak to someone at the Commission for more information before you lodge a written complaint you can contact the Inquiry Line during business hours, Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm on 1800 043 159 or submit an online inquiry.

Online inquiry

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