years—after a court awarded £5m to a mother whose baby was born with disabilities because doctors failed to explain the real risks of natural birth over a caesarean.
National Health Services (NHS) trusts pay out around £1.4 bn a year in compensation and damages for treatments that go wrong, usually because the risks and benefits of a range of treatments are never explained.
Although ‘informed consent’ is already in the General Medical Council guidelines, it’s something that few doctors follow. But now the Royal College of Surgeons has also made the practice the centre-piece of good medicine, and expects surgeons to explain every possible option. RCS spokesman Leslie Hamilton said that doctors could “no longer be the judge of what we tell patients”.
Informed consent is currently merely a tick-box exercise, where sheets of paper are pushed in front of the patient, who is told to sign, said Mr Hamilton.
Under the new guidelines, patients will be handed written information about the diagnosis and all available treatments, and given the time to read through the papers and ask questions.