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The attitude of Flemish paediatricians regarding informed consent of adolescents

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

BACKGROUND:

Since 2002 the Belgian law requires an informed consent of the patient before each medical intervention. This provision applies also for adolescent patients on condition that the physician considers the young patient as competent to autonomously participate in the decision making process.

AIM:

The purpose of this study is to evaluate to what extent Belgian paediatricians from the Flemish part of the country have implemented the legal requirements for informed consent of adolescent patients, in particular when they consult alone.

METHODS:

In the frame of a larger study regarding the relation between paediatricians and their patients, a questionnaire was sent via regular mail to 570 Flemish paediatricians, evaluating how and how often they obtain an informed consent of the adolescent when consulting a physician unaccompanied.

RESULTS:

In only 1% of all consultations an adolescent consulted the physician alone and agreed to a medical intervention on his/her own. The information given by the paediatrician did not differ if the adolescent consulted alone or was accompanied by (one of) his/her parents for the following items: purpose and type of treatment (100% vs 100%), duration of treatment (92% vs 94%) and aftercare (89% vs 93%). However, the information differed with regard to alternatives to the treatment (65% vs 76%), degree of urgency (89% vs 95% ), treatment related risks (82% vs 90%) and cost (21% vs 45%). 18.6% of the paediatricians consider age as the single criterion to evaluate the competence of the adolescent to provide an informed consent; other criteria that are considered: experience (92%), insight into and factual understanding of the clinical picture (84%). To fulfil the tasks of providing information and asking for consent, paediatricians rarely had recourse to prior established protocols (14%), they preferred to rely on proper experience and expertise (81%). Fifty percent appealed to the opinion of other health care providers.

CONCLUSIONS:

Although the Belgian law stipulates regulations that should be complied with by the physician during the decision making process about any medical intervention on adolescents, this legislation has rarely been put into practice, as the adolescents used their right to autonomously consent in barely 1% of all paediatric consultations. For the majority of the respondents other criteria than age were taken into account to consider an adolescent as able to provide informed consent.
Journal: Acta Clinica Belgica
ISSN: 0001-5512
Volume: 68
Pages: 43-47
Number of pages: 5
Publication year:2013
Keywords:gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Scopus Id: 84879539483