The requirement for informed consent prior to nursing care procedures
Aim of the paper. The aim of this paper is to examine the extent to which there is a requirement to obtain informed consent prior to nursing care procedures.
Rationale. The requirement for nurses to obtain consent prior to nursing care procedures is addressed in various nursing policy documents. It is important that nurses understand the legal and ethical rationale behind the principles of informed consent so that the principles are applied appropriately to the particular context of nursing care.
Argument. The ethical and legal rationale behind the concept of informed consent and its relevance to nursing practice are examined. In this paper, it is argued that the function of informed consent is to protect patient autonomy and to promote meaningful decision-making. Given the potential for nursing care procedures to infringe patient autonomy, consent is clearly a relevant concept in nursing. Furthermore, in law, any touching without consent is a potential battery. Informed consent is often associated as a rigid procedure, only relevant to surgical or research procedures. Consent should be obtained prior to nursing care procedures whenever patient autonomy is at stake. However, information-giving should be determined by the needs of the patient and approached in such a way as to facilitate meaningful decision-making. Given the individual nature of infringements to patient autonomy, it is difficult to predetermine all those care procedures that require consent; any list of procedures would fail to be comprehensive.
Conclusions. The principles of informed consent should underpin our approach to nursing care procedures, which should not be mechanistic but determined by the needs of individual patients.