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Term: Informed Consent

23 Sep 2014


Permission from a medical patient to a doctor to receive treatment for a health condition or to participate in a clinical trial based on the medical professional’s diagnosis of the patient’s condition and treatment options, the patient’s ability to understand the diagnosed information, and the patient’s ability to choose and agree to a treatment. Patients must provide informed consent in writing before receiving certain medical procedures such as surgery (inpatient or outpatient), advanced or complex medical tests or procedures, cancer treatment, vaccines and some blood tests (such as HIV testing in some states). Informed consent laws vary by state.


Before the patient can provide informed consent, the medical professional needs to educate the patient about his or her health problem, why it requires treatment, what the treatment process entails, how the treatment works, the treatment’s risks and potential side effects, alternative treatments and whether the patient should seek treatment urgently or wait. To give a valid informed consent, the patient must have the opportunity to ask questions, must understand the information they’ve received, must give their consent freely and must be legally capable of providing their consent.

Clinical trials have higher standards for informed consent than accepted medical treatments because they may have higher risks. A parent or legal guardian can provide permission to treatment for a minor or a mentally incapable person that they are legally responsible for who cannot provide informed consent. Some doctors and facilities still require agreement from older children and impaired adults before beginning treatment.

Informed consent is based on the idea that patients have the right to accept or refuse medical treatment. In a life-threatening emergency, however, getting a patient or their legal representative to provide informed consent may be impossible, and in such cases doctors will act in what they believe are the patient’s best interests until informed consent becomes possible.

Covid-19 – Johns Hopkins University

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