The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has warned that changes must be made now so as to ensure all patients are appropriately advised and enabled to give proper, informed consent before surgery.

The RCS’s warning in October 2016 comes after the landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court in the case of Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board in 2015.  The case clarified the meaning of patient consent and reinforced the importance of patient autonomy.

The RCS published new guidance for surgeons regarding patient consent in October 2016.

A patient’s legal and ethical right to decide what happens to their body is a long established right. For many years clinical practice was paternalistic; with doctors deciding what risks they thought a patient should be told about, sometimes to ‘protect’ a patient from worry about the potential risks. However, the court in Montgomery disapproved of this approach and brought the focus back to patient autonomy.

It is now clear that patients must be given information about all options, potential benefits and material risks inherent in each option. The ‘material risk’ will vary from patient to patient, for example, the risk of reduced hand movement would be a material risk for a decorator but might not be for another patient.

Despite over a year passing since the Supreme Court ruling in Montgomery, the RCS warn that not all hospitals and doctors have made the necessary improvements to the consent process.  This undermines patients’ rights and could jeopardise patient safety.

At Anthony Collins Solicitors we have represented clients who have not been given proper advice before consenting to surgery.  In some cases, clients were given barely any information, no alternatives and felt under time pressure to consent to a procedure.  In some circumstances patients have a legal right to bring a compensation claim against the NHS Hospital Trust or, if they were receiving private healthcare, against the doctor.  Inadequate advice on alternatives and pressure to have procedures can be a particular problem in the private sector.

Further information

For more information regarding compensation claims arising from inadequate advice about surgery, please contact Ann Houghton. Ann and our team will be happy to speak with you on an initial free, no obligation basis.

Ann is a specialist clinical negligence and personal injury solicitor.

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