What risks must I warn patients about when obtaining consent?

You must give patients any information they want or need about the potential risks, including the well-established complications of the procedure and any risk of serious harm, however unlikely it is to occur. You must also answer any questions they have honestly and openly.

The law requires that you take reasonable care to explain to patients any material risks involved in recommended treatment and of any reasonable alternative treatment (including no treatment, if appropriate). The phrase 'material risks' has a specific meaning: they are those risks a reasonable person in the patient's position would likely attach significance to, or which a doctor is (or should be) reasonably aware that the particular patient would be likely to attach significance to.

Fundamentally, explaining risk is all about meaningful dialogue; the exchange of relevant information specific to the individual patient to enable them to make an informed choice based on what matters to them. There is no standard, one-size-fits-all approach.

This page was correct at publication on 13/01/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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