chapter  2
24 Pages


The requirement that, generally, a patient must consent to treatment is of fundamental importance in medical law. Before a doctor or nurse touches a patient they must obtain the patient’s consent. In civil law, the tort of trespass to the person protects a person from being touched without giving their consent. It is a civil battery to do so. The tort of negligence is also relevant if a patient has not been given sufficient information before agreeing to treatment, for example, information about the risks of a particular treatment. In addition, an act which amounts to a battery in civil law may, at the same time, also be the criminal offence of battery. The person committing such an act may be prosecuted. The law dealing with competent adult patients is relatively clear but there are many difficulties with incompetent patients, largely stemming from the fact that no one can consent on behalf of an incompetent adult.