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:
|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.