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The Matter of Consent

The matter of consent always opens a very interesting discussion within the dental profession. It is vitally important for dental professionals to be up-to-date with the most current best practice when it comes to consent.

The definition of consent

Valid consent is defined by the Department of Health as

Consent ... must be given voluntarily by an appropriately informed person who has the capacity to consent to the intervention in question (this will be the patient or someone with parental responsibility for a patient under the age of 18...). Acquiescence where the person does not know what the intervention entails is not ‘consent’.

Valid consent requires three elements:
1. Capacity
2. Voluntary
3. Informed Decision

What does this definition mean by a patient requiring the capacity to consent? Well, a person lacks capacity to give consent if they have an impairment or other difficulty that affects the way their mind or brain works, whether temporary or permanent.

Furthermore, in order for the consent to be voluntary, there needs to be no pressure or undue influence put upon the patient. Obviously this is a fine line, as the patient will trust you as a dentist, in a professional capacity, to provide them with the correct advise. You should always be alert to the possibility of the outside influence from family members and other health care practitioners.

Finally, a patient is only sufficiently informed when they understand the nature and purpose of any proposed procedure. Misrepresentation of any of these elements invalidates consent.

Types of consent

There are two types of consent, each with their own limitations.

Implied consent is assumed when a patient enters your surgery and sits down in your chair. This consent is limited to only a consultation. Examinations, tests, probing, radiographs etc. requires express consent.

Express consent is when a patient confirms their agreement to a treatment in clear and explicit terms. This can be orally or in writing, but a written record is preferred.

How can your dental software help?

Keeping a written record of the consent is vital to every practice. Your dental software should be able to help you with recording patient consent. With Dentally you can save a written record of the patient's consent on their patient record. Some

For practices who are going through the process of converting to paperless, you could be looking at dental software that allows or will allow in the future, the ability to sign consent forms on a tablet.

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