Consent – Competence, capacity and maturity to provide consent

Some patients might not be competent to provide adequate consent.

Various states and territories have a framework for obtaining substitute consent on behalf of patients who are incompetent due to age, illness or disability. In these situations, GPs are advised to seek further advice. Age-related consent is dealt with at the state and territory level. As a rule, if a young person is mature enough to understand what will happen to their information, they will have capacity to consent.

New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have laws specifying the age of when a young person can provide valid consent:

Location Ages



the age is 16 years or over


the age is 14 years or over

ACT requires a parent or guardian to consent for a young person under the age of 18 years, unless the health practitioner assesses the child to have sufficient maturity and adequate understanding
VIC consideration should be given to the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 and specifically to the concept of decision-making capacity.

The Act does not stipulate age; its guidelines assume people over the age of 15 years have the ‘capacity’ to give informed consent.3 GPs must assess the capacity and maturity of each young person to understand and make informed decisions on a case-by-case basis.

In unclear cases, GPs can request corroborating consent from a parent or guardian.

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The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land and sea in which we live and work, we recognise their continuing connection to land, sea and culture and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future.