An individual seeking medical care is an active participant in his/her care and ultimately decides on the course of his/her treatment. Thus, before any procedure is performed, a patient must be provided with an informed consent. The elements of an informed consent are that the patient is given adequate and accurate information about what treatment is proposed, how it will be administered, the important benefits and risks of the treatment, alternative forms of treatment, and the consequences of no treatment. A signed patient’s consent to treatment forms a legal document, which defines a legal relationship between the patient and the doctor (medical institution/health care agency). Legal experts agree that the principles of informed consent encompass the following areas: the patient understands relevant information, voluntarily gives consent, appreciates the situation and its consequences, and uses a logical thought process to compare risks and benefits of treatment options. An informed consent is also based on the fundamental belief that the patient has the right to have control over his/her body. This not only legally provides the patient with autonomy, but also encourages the ethical aspects of the patient’s rational decision-making ability. Consequently, the patient has the right to refuse signing the informed consent. Informed consent need not be obtained when a real emergency exists and there is no opportunity to obtain consent.
A breach of duty to obtain a valid informed consent could result in the doctor’s civil liability in case the patient suffers from negative results of the treatment, even if the treatment was provided with required professional care. The jurisprudence usually gives an explanation regarding the content of duty to disclose and of valid informed consent, but such jurisprudence is much more accessible in the Anglo-Saxon legal system than in the Slovenian legal system.