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CMAJ 1991 Mar 15;144(6):681-5 Legal obligation of physicians to disclose information to patients. Chafe SM

Obtaining a patient's consent is a routine daily process for physicians, although many are unaware of the scope of this legal obligation. In 1980 the Supreme Court of Canada changed the law relating to informed consent; promotion of patient autonomy shifted the focus from a standard of professional disclosure to one of a "reasonable patient." Physicians have a legal obligation to disclose to patients specific information, the scope of which is determined by a court on the basis of a reasonable patient's expectation and the circumstances of the case. This gives rise to many controversies in the practice of clinical medicine. It is difficult for physicians to know which treatment risks require disclosure, since this is decided by a court in a retrospective analysis of the evidence. Will the court recognize exceptions to the duty of disclosing information? If several health care professionals are involved in a patient's care who has the duty to disclose information? Can this duty be delegated? This paper provides physicians with guidelines that are consistent with the promotion of patient autonomy and comply with the doctrine of informed consent. In addition, it suggests ways of improving awareness of the doctrine and procedures to ease its application.

Comment in: Can Med Assoc J 1991 Jun 15;144(12):1604-5

PMID: 1998927, UI: 91152670

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