The Fundamental Principle Of Medical Practice

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It is a fundamental principle in medical law that before treating a competent patient a medical practitioner must first get their patient’s consent. Otherwise, they risk being charged with battery or medical negligence. However, the consent is not considered effective unless the patient is competent, meaning that they are able to make a decision for themselves. It is presumed that this is the case unless there is evidence that they are not. Further, the patient must be informed, i.e. the doctor must provide any relevant and necessary information (failing to do that may result in charges of deliberate withholding of information). Additionally, the consent must be voluntary – the patient must not be coerced or under influence. Lastly, the…show more content…
In such cases the law has repeatedly proclaimed the primacy of the patient’s autonomy and self-determination. It has been ruled by the Court of Appeal that a competent adult patient has an absolute right to refuse to consent to medical treatment for any reason or for no reason at all. Their right is not reduced or diminished merely because their decision to exercise it might appear morally repugnant. Once they have made their informed choice, there must be complete acceptance of it with no effort made to dissuade them from it. It could be argued that, morally, the pregnant woman is not under duty to allow physical invasions which are against her personal beliefs or exceed the degree of physical suffering she is prepared to endure. It seems unjust to demand things from pregnant women that are not demanded of no one else in society. Similarly, no adult has ever been coerced to donate organs or tissue to someone already born. By contrast, some maintain that any pregnant woman who does not want to consent to operation to save her foetus’s life must be regarded as incompetent. Competency is at the bottom of all the Caesarean sections cases from the 1990’s which exposed how fragile the patient’s self-determination is in the face of preserving valued life. The following cases exemplify the general vulnerability of autonomy and the means through which the courts have trumped it. In Re MB the patient has consented to a
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