If you are an adult patient (16 years old and over), only you can give consent for your treatment. Your relatives or next of kin cannot do this on your behalf. However, in certain circumstances they might be consulted, for example, if you were unconscious and it was an emergency.
If you are incapacitated, for example because you are unconscious or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and you need life-saving treatment, two senior doctors might make a decision on your behalf. They would make a judgement about what would be in your best interest.
There are other, very specific, circumstances when senior medical staff might need to make decisions on behalf of an adult, for example if someone is detained under the Mental Health Act.
There are some additional issues about consent in the case of children under 16 years of age. We will explain these to you if they apply. The Department of Health has a leaflet on consent for children. Please ask us for a copy or call the NHS Response Line on 08701 555455.
What if I have made an advance directive?
If you have made an advance directive – sometimes known as a living will – before losing the ability to decide for yourself or to communicate effectively, you or your relatives should make the staff aware of this as soon as possible. Details will then be placed in your medical notes, which will allow us to respect your wishes.