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Clinicians’ knowledge of informed consent
  1. Lisa Fisher-Jeffes1,
  2. Charlotte Barton2,
  3. Fiona Finlay3
  1. 1Royal United Hospital, Combe Park, Bath, UK
  2. 2Taunton Road Medical Centre, Bridgwater, Somerset, UK
  3. 3Child Health Department, Newbridge Hill, Bath, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 F Finlay
 Child Health Department, Newbridge Hill, Bath BA1 3QE, UK; Fiona.finlay{at}


Objective: To audit doctors’ knowledge of informed consent.

Design: 10 consent scenarios with “true”, “false”, or “don’t know” answers were completed by doctors who care for children at a large district general hospital. These questions tested clinicians’ knowledge of who could give consent in different clinical situations.

Setting: Royal United Hospital, Bath, UK.

Results: 51 doctors participated (25 paediatricians and 26 other clinicians). Paediatricians scored higher than other clinicians (average correct response 69% v 49%). Only 36% (9/25) of paediatricians and 8% (2/26) of other clinicians realised that the biological father of a child born before 1 December 2003 needed a court order or a parental responsibility agreement to acquire parental responsibility, and thus be able to consent on behalf of his child, if he was not married to the child’s mother. Non-paediatric clinicians were unsure or incorrect when tested on situations where people with parental responsibility do not agree, or where young people (<16 years), who are Fraser competent do not want to consult their parents. Most clinicians did not know that the parents of a 20-year-old man with severe learning difficulties are unable to consent to surgery on his behalf, and many non-paediatricians were unclear on who could give consent when a child lived with foster parents.

Conclusion: Clinicians who obtain consent for the treatment of children need to increase their knowledge on who is able to give informed consent to ensure best (legal and safe) practice.

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  • Competing interests: None.

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