Informed Consent

  • George J. Annas


Information is power, and because information sharing inevitably results in decision sharing, the doctrine of informed consent has helped transform the doctor-patient relationship. This is why informed consent is the most important legal doctrine in both the doctor-patient relationship and treatment in health care facilities. Not only is it important because of its implications for power and accountability, but it is also important because many of the other rights patients have are either derived from or enhanced by the doctrine of informed consent. The basic concept is simple: A doctor cannot touch or treat a patient until the doctor has given the patient some basic information about what the doctor proposes to do, and the patient has agreed to the proposed treatment or procedure. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with this proposition, and the foundation on which it stands: People have a right not to have their bodies invaded without their approval because of their interests in bodily integrity and self-determination. Put more simply, it is the patient’s body. The patient is the one who must experience the invasion and live with its consequences. There is no obligation to accept any medical treatment, and it is remarkable that anyone ever considered it acceptable practice to treat a person without that person’s informed consent. Physicians have no roving mandate to treat whomever they believe may need their services.


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Copyright information

© George J. Annas and the American Civil Liberties Union 1992

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  • George J. Annas

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