Clinicians’ consent law knowledge: The case for education

Denise Patricia Craig, Fintan Thompson


Introduction: The short-term objectives of this study were to investigate clinicians’ confidence with, and knowledge of, consent laws, their behaviour regarding familiarisation with patients’ advance care plans and the potential benefit of brief education. Education covered patients’ rights to refuse treatment, including via advance directive, and the legislated hierarchy of decision-making authority.

Methods: Throughout 2018, all clinicians at one Queensland Hospital and Health Service were invited to attend a 1-hour legal education session. The study used a crosssectional survey to measure clinicians’ knowledge before and after education. Responses from 316 pre- and 319 post-education questionnaires were analysed.

Results: A 1-hour legal education session improved clinicians’ understanding of legislated consent hierarchy and patients’ rights. Pre education, 4.1% of participants correctly identified the lawful consent hierarchy, rising to 65.5% after education. Accuracy increased significantly after education; however, substantial errors persisted.

Conclusions: The potential benefit of education to increase multidisciplinary clinicians’ legal knowledge was supported. Education can ensure that clinicians are made aware of patients’ rights and the potential complexity of lawful substitute decision making.


aging; advance care planning; advance directives; decision-making; medical education; legislation

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