A paramedic’s work is individual in its role, context and circumstances to many other forms of care. (Law Teacher, 2015, p.1) Paramedics are likely to confront a different set of ethical battles with many of their matters being grounded on legal and ethical accountabilities. These legal and ethical accountabilities are mainly concerned with patient matters, one in particular being a patients consent.
To consent means, “to give permission or agreement.” Within consent comes four types; informed, expressed, implied and involuntary. Informed indicates the individual recognises and agrees to the care rendered. Expressed is verbal or written consent and Implied assumes that an unconscious person without decisional capacity who needs emergency care would agree to lifesaving care. Lastly, involuntary consent refers to action that is decided by the authority of law (Mosby’s Paramedic textbook, fourth edition, p. 98-99). The common law of informed consent orders that an individual has the right to control what will be done with her or her body. Whether a patient is actually independent or not will be a decision that paramedics will be constantly challenged with. In these cases treatment that is essential to save the patient’s life, to prevent serious damage to their health or to stop the patient from continuing to suffer from significant pain may be given without consent (Townsend, Luck, 2009). If a paramedic acts in contradiction of the patient’s wishes and treats without consent, they are then accountable to legal charges of assault and battery. However, the duty to respect autonomy ends when a person is believed to be incapable of acting in an autonomous manner as stated in the Mental Health Act 1986. This may be due to mental illness or temporary inability due to intoxication, drugs, or medical issues such as shock or head injuries. In deciding upon the validity of informed consent, one must examine the four main elements that make consent valid:
1. Consent is voluntary
2. The patient has been given sufficient information about their circumstances
3. The consent covers the treatment that will be provided
4. The patient has the sufficient decision making capacity (Applies paramedic law and ethics, date, p. 94)
An example of implied consent in a health care environment follows: Miss Gaby Price was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pain and an incredibly low blood pressure. She was 25 years of age and 30 weeks pregnant. She had been complaining of stomach pains for several days due to a fall down her