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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