Consent means agreement. Anyone involved in looking after your health has to have your agreement before they can examine or treat you.
Who can give consent?
You can give consent if you can:
- understand what is involved
- decide things for yourself
You may not feel able to give consent for some things, some decisions are more difficult than others.
Before you give consent, you may find it helpful to speak to a parent, guardian, advocate or another adult you trust. They will help explain things to you and help you express your views.
Even if you can't give your consent, you can still be involved in discussions about your health care.
Who can give consent for you?
If you can't give consent, your parent or the person who looks after you will be asked for their consent to your examination or treatment.
If it’s an emergency, doctors can treat you without your consent or the consent of a parent or guardian if:
- the treatment will save your life
- the treatment will stop you becoming even more unwell
Decisions about consent
Decisions about consent will be made by your doctor or someone else looking after your health.
In order to make a decision they need to be sure you understand:
- the kind of examination or treatment suggested
- the possible effects of this treatment
The doctor, nurse or other health worker must explain things to you in a way you can understand. If they don't do this, you should ask them to explain more clearly.
If you’re unhappy about their decision, you can contact a support organisation for help.
Find out more about health rights support for young people
How to give consent
You can give your consent by saying you agree, doing something to show you agree or signing an agreement form.
If your doctor asks to examine your foot, you can show you agree to this by removing your shoe.
If the examination or treatment is complicated, like an operation, they will ask you to sign a form.
Change of mind
You can change your mind about giving consent at any time by telling the person looking after you.
Before doing so, you should understand how this could affect your health.
You can ask as many questions as you want about your health and care.
You might want to know:
- why you're being examined or treated
- what will happen
- what good it will do
- if there are any risks
- if there’s a different treatment you could choose instead
- what could happen if you don’t have the examination or treatment
- the name of the doctor or other health worker looking after you
You should also ask if you would like:
- some information to take away
- more time to make your decision
Refusing an examination or treatment
You can refuse to have an examination or treatment as long as you understand how this could affect your health.
Your doctor and your parent or the person who looks after you should always listen to you, even if they disagree with your decision.
If you have a very serious condition and refuse treatment, your parent or guardian may disagree with you and want to discuss your case with a lawyer. If this is the case, your opinion will still be listened to and you can have your own lawyer to help you.
The Scottish Law Centre provide free and confidential legal advice for young people.
Concerns and complaints
If you're not happy about the way you were involved in decisions about your care and treatment, you should:
- tell one of the health workers who has been involved in your care
- ask your parent or another adult you trust to do this for you
If you’re still unhappy, it’s okay to make a complaint.
Find out how to give feedback or make a complaint
Consent: Your Rights (Leaflet)
This information is also available as a leaflet, which has been translated into different languages and formats - including audio, BSL, large print and easy-to-read.
Print-ready versions for professionals are also available.
Download a leaflet