In many fields where you work with people, you must acquire consent before a course of action. Doctors must acquire express consent before any procedure but must require informed consent before a serious procedure, such as surgery. Informed and express consent laws vary by state and profession. If you are unsure whether you need express or informed consent, acquire informed consent to reduce your risk of litigation.
Express consent, sometimes known as general consent, is consent given after a question or proposition. In the medical field, most simple procedures require express consent. For example, a nurse may ask "Can I take your blood pressure?" If you reply "Yes," you have given express consent. In other fields, express consent is required before you change a contract or perform a service. For example, a realtor cannot accept commission late fees without the express consent of the home seller.
Like express consent, informed consent requires the asking of a question and the receiving of an affirmative answer. However, informed consent involves a greater discussion and more information. To obtain informed consent, a doctor or nurse must fully discuss a patient's options and how a procedure will affect him. For example, if a patient is considering a surgery, a doctor will explain the surgical procedure, possible complications and other possible courses of action.
When You Need Consent
In the medical field, informed consent is required before any out-of-the ordinary procedures, while express consent is adequate for typical procedures or during an emergency. If a patient is unconscious but her life is at risk, only implied consent is required. Implied consent is inferred by actions or circumstance. For example, if a person has passed out from drowning, you have implied consent to perform CPR if you are CPR certified.
Informed consent protects a professional from legal action. For example, if you talk with you doctor about the risks of a surgery and he explains that infection is a risk, you cannot sue him if you suffer from an infection after surgery. Express consent does not protect professionals from litigation but it does protect them from battery or assault charges. For example, if you did not discuss risks of surgery but suffer from limited mobility, you can sue the doctor but you cannot press charges on him for battery.