Future Healthcare

See things from the patient’s view

Montgomery five years on: Niloo Bozorgi reflects on how the consent landscape has changed for doctors.

In 2015, the Supreme Court handed down judgment in the case of Montgomery v Lanarkshire HA [2015] and effectively changed the understood legal definition of informed consent.

The doctor who is counselling a patient before a procedure or course of treatment is now judged on whether they discharged duties imposed on them professionally and by the law.

Judgment is made not by reference to what information a reason­able doctor would have imparted, but rather by reference to whether a reasonable patient has been provided with all information material to their agreement to such treatment. 

This advice must deal with all the realistic alternatives open to the patient, including those the doctor is not able or willing to perform.

The move was welcomed by many as bringing the legal duties of medical practitioners in line with long-held regulatory professional standards.

But others feared that the newly defined legal obligation encouraged a defensive style of medical practice that shifted the focus from helping the patient to protecting the doctor.