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One step forward, two steps back? The GMC, the common law and ‘informed’ consent
  1. Sara Fovargue1,
  2. José Miola2
  1. 1Law School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  2. 2School of Law, Leicester University, Leicester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sara Fovargue, Law School, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YN, UK; s.fovargue{at}


Until 2008, if doctors followed the General Medical Council's (GMC's) guidance on providing information prior to obtaining a patient's consent to treatment, they would be going beyond what was technically required by the law. It was hoped that the common law would catch up with this guidance and encourage respect for patients' autonomy by facilitating informed decision-making. Regrettably, this has not occurred. For once, the law's inability to keep up with changing medical practice and standards is not the problem. The authors argue that while the common law has moved forward and started to recognise the importance of patient autonomy and informed decision-making, the GMC has taken a step back in their 2008 guidance on consent. Indeed, doctors are now required to tell their patients less than they were in 1998 when the last guidance was produced. This is an unfortunate development and the authors urge the GMC to revisit their guidance.

  • Codes of/position statements on professional ethics
  • GMC
  • information disclosure
  • informed consent
  • law

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  • Patient consent Not obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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