Consent for anaesthesia
White SM, Baldwin TJ.
Department of Anaesthesia,
St Thomas' Hospital,
Lambeth Palace Road, London, UK.
Anaesthesia. 2003 Aug;58(8):760-74..


Current professional guidelines concerning information and consent for anaesthesia are a fair representation of English law. However, they reject the need for specific, written consent for anaesthesia, a position which is in accordance with other Western jurisdictions. This is understandable, as there would be a number of problems inherent in such an approach: the consent process would be unnecessarily labour and time intensive, the generic nature of the information to be disclosed would not allow for operator-dependent variables, and many of the disclosable risks continue to be of uncertain incidence. Moreover, written consent is not needed in order to defend cases of assault by anaesthetists. However, for the very reason that there are a large number of risks associated with anaesthesia (risks that are unknown to the majority of surgeons), together with the possibility of the courts moving towards a reasonable patient standard of information disclosure (as a result of the introduction of human rights legislation into English law), it is our view that the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland should change their guidelines and advise anaesthetists to obtain separate, written affirmation from patients that certain risks and consequences of anaesthesia have been explained to them. In addition, a standardised consent form for anaesthesia may prove invaluable in retrospectively defending a claim of negligence founded around information disclosure, by recording exactly the risks and consequences of interventions discussed by the anaesthetist and the patient.
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