Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. As a literal matter, in the absence of fraud, it is redundant. An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given. (Wikipedia).
UK case law on consent has established three requirements that need to be satisfied before a potential client can give informed consent: 1. Consent should be given by someone with the mental ability to do so. 2. Sufficient information should be given to the participant. 3. Consent must be freely given. A therapist must always get informed consent to give treatment. This should be done by clearly explaining the treatment you will be giving, any risks that may be involved and any other alternative treatments that may be possible.
A record of the treatment plan including all decisions must be kept and passed to all professionals involved in their care. Informed consent cannot be given by a client under the age of 16 so the parent or legal guardian are authorised to give it. Consent can be given either in writing or verbally and should be based upon the information being clearly explained by the therapist and fully understood by the client. The therapist should not just hand over a form for the client to sign as they may not fully read the details on it.
An information sheet should be given which should include material the therapist feels is suitable for each individual client. It could also have details of any books or websites that could be of use. The information should include the type of treatment, the outcomes, all costs/expenses, any risks or consequences which may be incurred and available options. Everything must be understood by the client and the therapist can establish this by asking if all information is clear or if anything more is required.
The therapist should be aware of the needs of their potential client in case, for example, they have a problem reading. Alternative formats such as MP3, CD or picture data may be required. The client should freely ask questions so clarification can be obtained. Effective communication should be used to find out what a patient wants and needs to know. As treatment is ongoing and may change, the therapist must ensure that the client is made aware of these and that they understand and agree to them.
The client should be in full possession of their faculties and not be impaired by health problems such as illness, drug addiction or alcohol problems. It is the responsibility of the therapist to get informed consent from the client before treatment begins. In many areas of therapeutic practice, it is considered to be a legal and ethical requirement to have informed consent as it is possible that legal action could be taken against a therapist if they begin treatment without it.
However, the Medical Council states that ‘while a signed consent form provides good evidence that a discussion has taken place, it does not prove that consent is truly informed. If a client is only given a form to sign with no verbal explanation, it loses all significance as it becomes an undemanding formality that must be complied with for legal purposes. This does not serve the ethical objectives of consent. ’ (Good Medical Practice in Seeking Informed Consent to Treatment 2008/9).
The therapist must check with the client that they have understood and are satisfied with all the information and details they have been given. Any outstanding problems should be clarified prior to the client giving informed consent. Implied consent is consent which is understood without being explicitly stated (Dictionarist). It is a form of consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but rather inferred from a client’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation (Wikipedia). There is no direct agreement given either verbally or in writing to confirm consent.
If a client came to see a hypnotherapist following having received information from them, it would be assumed as implied consent to hypnosis as they have made a decision to make an appointment for treatment. Written consent should be obtained before any treatment is given but after the therapist has clearly explained hypnotherapy and is sure that it has been understood by the client. It must be obtained from the parent or legal guardian of a child or a young person before therapy begins. Written consent should always be given in advance if any audio or visual recordings are to be made.