The doctrine of informed consent: does it exist and has it crossed the Atlantic?

Alasdair R. Maclean

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    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Use of the term ‘informed consent’ is commonplace in both bioethics and medical law. In the legal context the term may be referred to as ‘the doctrine of informed consent’ but the way that this latter term is used raises doubt as to its value as a legal concept. In this paper I explore the concept of the ‘doctrine of informed consent’ and suggest that it may be useful, but only if limited to the autonomy-driven duty to disclose rather than as a more general referent. Having established the nature of the concept I then consider whether the doctrine - which is applied in a minority of US states, Canada and Australia - has crossed the Atlantic and become part of the law in England and Wales. In particular, I analyse Lord Woolf MR's judgment in Pearce v United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust and suggest that the law has moved towards the doctrine but that it still falls short of the disclosure required by the reasonable patient standard.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)386-413
    Number of pages28
    JournalLegal Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004


    • Informed consent
    • Medical law
    • Bioethics


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