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Consent: giving permission for your child to have treatment
At The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) we want you to have all the information you need to make informed decisions for your child. The following information explains all about consent and how we seek agreement for a patient’s treatment at the RCH.
What is consent in healthcare?
Consent is a decision to agree to a healthcare treatment, procedure, advice or other intervention.
What should I consider before giving consent?
When you consent for your child’s treatment, it should be based on a process that has given you the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any concerns you might have.
Choosing Wisely Australia has provided a list of five questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider before giving consent.
Five questions to ask your doctor or other health care provider before you get any test, treatment or procedure
1. Do I really need this test or procedure?
Tests may help you and your doctor or other health care provider determine the problem. Procedures may help treat it.
2. What are the risks?
Will there be side effects? What are the chances of getting results that aren’t accurate? Could that lead to more testing or another procedure?
3. Are there simpler, safer options?
Sometimes all you need to do is make lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier foods or exercising more.
4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
Ask if your condition might get worse – or better – if you don’t have the test or procedure right away.
5. What are the costs?
Costs can be financial, emotional or a cost of your time. Where there is a cost to the community, is the cost reasonable or is there a cheaper alternative?
Who will ask me to give consent?
In most situations, the healthcare provider offering treatment will be the person who asks your consent. They are suitably qualified, have sufficient knowledge of the treatment and understand the risks, benefits, and any alternatives. Often a doctor will ask for your consent, but some of our other staff can also ask for consent.
How can I give my consent?
Consent can be given in the following ways and will depend on the treatment or test:
- Non-verbal – for example, holding out your child’s arm so a nurse can take their blood pressure.
- Verbal – by saying that you give permission for your child to have treatment.
- Written – by signing a consent form giving permission for your child to have treatment.
What if English isn’t my preferred language?
We can arrange an interpreter to ensure that you understand the consent process. The RCH consent form has also been translated into the following languages: Turkish, Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Dinka, Somali and Vietnamese.
You can also choose to have a support person attend a consent discussion with you.
When will I be asked to give consent?
Written consent is required when the proposed treatment is complex, has significant risks or may involve the need for a blood transfusion. Written consent is always required for procedures that requires your child to be put to sleep (anaesthetic).
Where the consent relates to a particular procedure, written consent may be obtained at a pre-admission clinic or outpatient assessment appointment before the scheduled procedure. On the day of admission, we will confirm that you are happy to continue with the procedure.
What happens in an emergency?
In an emergency, if a healthcare provider reasonably and honestly believes that the treatment is necessary to prevent a serious and imminent threat to the patient's life, physical or mental health, they can legally proceed with the appropriate procedure without obtaining consent.
Who can give consent?
On most occasions it is the parent or legal guardian (the person who has legal rights, responsibilities, duties, power and authority to make decisions for a child) who will be asked to provide consent. It is important to understand that children can also give consent in certain cases but their ability to do so depends on their age and capacity to make the decision whether to have treatment. Your healthcare provider can give guidance on the extent to which your child can consent.
Foster carers do not usually hold legal parental responsibility and so Child Protection is to be contacted to confirm who is able to provide consent for a child subject to a Child Protection Order.
What if I do not agree with the proposed treatment?
In a situation where patients/families do not agree with the recommended treatment, and non-agreement means there is potential for significant harm to a child, the healthcare provider may seek legal advice in the best interest of the patient.
What happens if I change my mind?
You can change your mind at any point after giving consent. If you do change your mind, you may be asked to record your withdrawal of consent in writing.
What are my rights?
You have the right to be fully informed of the risks and benefits of any medical treatment. You are entitled to receive all the information you need to make a decision, as well as to ask questions and receive satisfactory answers.
Our commitment to you
At the RCH, we want you to be comfortable about any decisions you make on behalf of your child. If you have any questions, please ask the healthcare provider asking for your consent. If you do not understand it is always OK to ask us to explain again or for more time if you need it.
Further information about medical consent can be found at the following links:
Last updated May 2023