Expert advice

Patient consent or assent – what’s the difference, and how to protect individuals’ rights

Advice on gaining consent, and what to do if a patient lacks capacity
Patient consent

Advice on understanding the importance of gaining a patient’s consent, and safeguards where an individual lacks capacity

The terms consent and assent are sometimes confused with each other and used interchangeably, but they are different.

Consent is obtained as part of a legal process, while assent is a more informal agreement which is generally used when consent cannot be obtained.

Consent – the law’s way of acknowledging the patient’s right to self-determination

Consent is the legal recognition of the ethical principle of self-determination – the right of a person to make their own decisions about what happens to their body and when.

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