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Informed consent

When you visit a hospital or health centre, you may need to have tests or treatment. If your health care worker wants to test or treat you, they must ask you for your consent first.

Informed consent is when you clearly understand your illness or health problem, and agree to what your health worker is going to do. Remember, you have the choice to have treatment or not.

Video—informed consent in health care

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What information do I need?

To help you make a decision about tests or treatment, your health worker will give you some important information. You can also ask questions such as:

  • what is my illness or health problem?
  • what is the test or treatment?
  • how will the test or treatment help me?
  • can the test or treatment cause any problems?
  • how serious can the problems be?
  • are there different tests or treatments?
  • what happens after the tests or treatments?
  • will I get better?
  • how long will it take to get better?
  • what may happen if I don't get treatment?

Please tell your health worker if you don't understand anything they have talked to you about.

Why do I have to give consent?

It is the law in Australia that your health worker has your consent before giving you a health test, or treating you.

Why do I need to sign a consent form?

You will be asked to sign a written consent form for high-risk treatments like surgery. Other times you might only need to tell your health worker that you agree to what they are going to do.

Your consent form is only going to be read by those involved in your health care, and won't be shared with anyone else.

Who can give consent?

You will need to give your own consent if you understand your treatment options and can tell your health worker what you want to do.

You can bring your family, friends or community members for support and ask them for advice.

When you're in an emergency, sometimes a health worker, a family member or a friend can make decisions for you.

Who gives consent for a child?

Usually, a parent, guardian or carer gives consent for a child that is under 18 years of age.

Only in cases where a child can fully understand their treatment and the effect it can have on their health, can they give their own consent.

Your health worker will check if a child can give their consent.

How much do I need to know?

Health workers will give you as much information as you want and try to answer all of your questions. You can tell your health worker if there is anything you don't want to know about your tests or treatment.

How much time do I have to decide?

Decisions have to be made quickly in emergencies. If it is not an emergency, you can take more time to decide.

If you're still unsure, you can talk to another health worker to help you make your decision.

Do I need an interpreter?

Sometimes, it can be hard to understand what you need to know about your test or treatment. It's important that if you are going to make the best decision about your health, you and your health worker understand each other.

If English isn't your first language, a professional interpreter can attend your appointment. Both face-to-face and telephone interpreters are free. Remember, everything you tell your interpreter is private.

What if I gave consent and then I change my mind?

You can always change your mind, even if you signed a consent form or told you health worker that you agree to have tests or treatment.

Last updated 19 October 2016
Last reviewed 21 October 2016