Clinician’s responsibility in consent to treatment clarified and affirmed

Amendments to the WA Consent to Treatment Policy and related forms negotiated by TIA make it clear that a patient’s clinician is responsible for obtaining and documenting consent by giving the patient time and support to understand information about their procedure.

The WA Office of Patient Safety and Clinical Quality has taken advice from TIA on amendments which protect interpreters from legal risk by upholding the right of patients whose first language is not English to have their procedure explained and to ask questions. The amended policy makes it clear that written information must not be used as a substitute for face-to-face discussion. In particular, interpreters should not be expected to sight translate, nor to complete declarations or fill in answers to questions on behalf of a patient who does not read English.

Questions and answers must be asked and recorded by an appropriately authorised hospital staff member, with the interpreter only interpreting. TIA successfully pointed out that otherwise, neither the hospital nor the Department have actually obtained consent, and are therefore not legally protected.