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10 August 2016

Why do I have to sign a consent form for dental treatments?

It is required and a common practice for a patient to give his or her consent prior to any kind of medical or dental examination, procedure, and treatment. Consent is required in everything from physical examination to organ donation. The principle of giving consent is embedded not only in medical ethics but also international human rights law.

For an individual’s consent to be valid, it must be first and foremost, voluntary and informed. Also, the person giving the consent must have the capacity to make the decision. These terms are further explained below:

Voluntary – Simply put, voluntary means that the decision to give consent or not is made and comes from the person themselves. It should not in any be heavily influenced or result from being pressured by a family member, friend, and medical or dental staff.

Informed – The individual must be provided with all the information he or she needs with regards to the treatment including the steps involved, risks, benefits, requirements, medications, pre-treatment preparations, after treatment effects and expectations, and other reasonable treatment options if any. Patient would be able to make better decisions when they’re given all the information they need.

Capacity – The individual must be capable of giving their consent which means that they understand the information they are given and that they know how to use it to make conscious, informed decisions. It also entails that the individual has the ability to communicate any decision he or she has made.

These requirements are applicable to all patients, with the exception of patients who are children, minors, and those unable to make a decision themselves. Children and minors usually require consent from their parents or legal guardians. Those persons who cannot make their own decisions due to an existing medical condition or disability for example, and those who need the procedure to keep them alive, require consent coming from their parents, relatives, or any one they appointed on their behalf to act with their consent or power of attorney.

Consent or non-consent should always be treated with utmost importance and respect. Even if an individual meets the three requirements above and refuses a particular procedure or treatment, this decision must still be met with respect and acceptance. This principle stands even if the decision would result or has resulted in more serious complications, even death.

Consent should always be given directly to the dentist or healthcare professional who is directly involved in your treatment. It can be given either verbally or in writing, by signing your name and signature on a consent form provided for you. A patient may also “passively” give their consent, by raising a hand to the dentist to indicate that they’re ok with having their x-ray taken for example. If the patient has decided to undergo a major dental procedure, such as those involving surgery and operation, consent must be given days in advance. This is important so that before the procedure even starts, the patient has had enough time to receive and review all the information they need regarding the procedure, and have all their questions and concerns be addressed by the dentist. If at any point before the procedure they change their mind, they can and will be allowed to withdraw their previously given consent.

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