Sidaway v Board of Governors of Bethlem Royal Hospital [1985] & Informed Consent

It is a case of cervical cord decompression surgery leading to paraplegia and the doctor did not explain the risk of paraplegia.


Judgment: Rejecting her claim for damages, the court held that consent did not require an elaborate explanation of remote side effects. The Bolam test should not apply to the issue of informed consent. A doctor should have a duty to tell the patient of the inherent and material risk of the treatment proposed. It is much an exercise of professional skill and judgment as any other part of the doctor's comprehensive duty of care to the individual patient.


Informed Consent

It is the permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits. It is 'the modern clinical ritual of trust'. The patient needs to be competent and the doctor needs to respect individual autonomy.


Limitations of Informed Consent (Situations we cannot give Informed Consent)

- very young

- very ill

- mentally impaired

- demented

- unconscious

- confused

- in emergency


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