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What Is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is a legal term that means a person is fully aware of the facts of a situation (such as a surgical procedure) before agreeing to it. Other situations that need informed consent include blood transfusions, anesthesia, and vaccines.

To get a parent’s informed consent for their child, a doctor will discuss things such as:

  • the child’s diagnosis
  • details about the procedure or treatment, and why it’s recommended
  • the risks and benefits involved
  • any possible alternative treatments
  • the risks and benefits of any alternatives
  • the risks and benefits of NOT undergoing the treatment or procedure

It is the doctor’s responsibility to make sure you understand the medical problem and treatment. During the discussion, you can ask questions. This is your right and responsibility — and there’s no such thing as a silly question. You’ll be asked to sign a written consent form before the surgery, procedure, or treatment. If you can’t be there to sign the form, you’ll be contacted by phone to give your consent.

In rare emergencies, a parent might not be available to give consent for a treatment for a young child — for example, if an unconscious patient comes into the ER. Then, doctors apply the principle of “presumed”or “implied” consent, using their professional judgment to do what is best for the child.