In this section, we will explore the rights that you have as a patient. There are often lots of decisions to make and forms to fill out when you are seen at the hospital. It is important that you take your time to read and fully understand what is going to happen, how it may affect you and whether you would like to go ahead. Most of the time these tests and treatment options will be the best way forward but feel free to ask for further information and reassurance from your doctor and care team. It is always better to voice your concerns and speak to someone.
Consent is a necessity before any medical procedures are carried out. This is based on the consent being voluntary, informed and the patient being competent – the patient must have the mental capacity to make their decisions.
To be deemed informed, a patient must be given all the information, benefits, complications, procedure and risks so they can make an informed decision. A patient has the right to ask questions about their treatment to make an informed decision and should take the opportunity to do so. A patient has a right to decline treatment, if they are deemed competent and are informed of the risks carried, in the same way, they have the right to accept treatment.
Doctors must make a judgment whether the patient is competent to make decisions regarding their health care or not. Refer to the mental capacity act.
When a patient makes an unlikely decision, doctors should make sure this decision is based on the patient having enough mental capacity.
‘Gillick competence’ refers to a young person under 16 with the capacity to make any relevant decision. Medical professionals need to consider Gillick competency if a young person under the age of 16 wishes to receive treatment without their parents’ or carers’ consent or, in some cases, knowledge.
If the young person has informed their parents of the treatment they wish to receive but their parents do not agree with their decision, treatment can still proceed if the child has been assessed as Gillick competent.
Remember that consent is not valid if a young person is being pressured or influenced by someone else.