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Obtaining Consent

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It is a general legal and ethical principle that dental care providers must obtain valid consent before starting treatment or physical investigation, or providing personal care, for a patient. Obtaining appropriate consent should follow the principles set out in guidance provided by the General Dental Council [1] and the Scottish Executive [2] and comply with current legislation covering obtaining consent.

This guidance provides information on the legal framework for consent in Scotland. However, note that, as the law governing consent varies, practitioners must familiarise themselves with the law relating to the country in which they intend to practice. In summary, the following groups of patients are considered to have the capacity to consent to treatment, investigation or personal care:

  • a patient over the age of 16 years
  • a patient of less than 16 years of age who is accessing care in Scotland, if the practitioner believes that the child is capable of understanding the nature and possible consequences of the procedure or treatment (see Children)
  • a parent or carer with parental rights over a child
  • proxy consenters (in Scotland the proxy does not have the right to refuse treatment)
  • the Court, in the case of a child

In circumstances where a patient does not have the capacity to consent, refer to the relevant legislation covering consent for children and for those adults who lack the capacity to make decisions regarding their healthcare (see Children and Adults with Incapacity for details).

Keep up-to-date with legislation covering the issue of obtaining consent and, if you are unsure, ask for up-to-date legal advice from your dental defence organisation.

If in doubt about any aspect of obtaining consent, seek advice from your dental defence organisation prior to commencing examination and treatment.