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- Discuss why obtaining informed consent is ethically important.
- Discuss the legislation covering consent.
- Describe the elements of consent and discuss where and how the process could have broken down in Mary's case.
- Discuss and justify what you would do in this situation?
Informed consent is the process that involves the application of shared decision-making (Page 2015). This process is performed before any medical procedure or surgery. The process involves communication between the healthcare provider and the patient, which further results in patient's agreement for the specific intervention. Shared decision-making is the fundamental prerequisite for building a relationship between the patient and healthcare provider. In legal terms, the patient is informed about all the benefits, alternatives, and risks involved in the proposed treatment (Barry 2012).
Informed consent is the primary requirement for protecting the legal rights of the patient. However, the ethical purpose of obtaining an informed consent from the patient demonstrates that the health professionals respects patient autonomy. The principle of autonomy is based upon the moral right of the patient to choose specific action or intervention in for their life (Menendez 2013). This ensures that the treatment is directed as per the choice and consent of the patient. For undergoing any medical procedure like surgery, it is important for the healthcare professionals to effectively inform the patient about all the aspects of the treatment and obtain a signed informed consent which reports on effective understanding and agreement of the patient for the proposed treatment (Hall, Prochazka, & Fink 2012). Nurses have a prime responsibility to ensure that informed decisions are guided by the complete components of informed consent underpinned by the ethical principles.
According to the policies under the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the nursing procedures are developed utilising the Medical Treatment Act 1988 and the Human Rights Act 2004 (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation 2012). This involves clear guidelines to the healthcare providers on obtaining consent from the patients for medical procedures. If the consent provided by the patient is informed it is understood that the patient or the carer has the complete information on the treatment or intervention. In cases where there is a doubt on the patient capacity like patient under 18 years old, the opinion of the practitioner should be recorded or documented (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation 2012).
Each of the six states of Australia and two territories have their specific laws for mental health which supersede the common law of informed consent. The Mental Health Act 2014 is the key legislation that covers the treatment and care of patients with mental illness. This act clearly mentions that the person with the capacity to give informed consent (Department of Health 2014). For example, can understand, remember, communicate and use the information for making a decision should give their informed consent for medical treatments. However, in special cases, like individuals who don't have the capacity to provide informed consent, the psychiatrist is authorised to make the treatment decision that benefits the patient.
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