Informed Consent and Dental Treatment
This paper will discuss the issue of informed consent in the area of dentistry. The first part of the paper will discuss the standards used to define informed consent. The second part of the paper will examine what information is considered "material" and therefore necessary for disclosure. The third part of the paper will look at the unique problems presented by child patients. The fourth part will discuss the issue of implied consent. The last part will discuss some of the specific information which must be disclosed.
Informed consent in dental treatment is identical to that in other types of medical treatment. The general rule in all cases involving medical treatment is that the prior consent of the patient is required in order for a physician to provide such treatment. The patient must be advised of the nature and the risks of the proposed treatment in order for the consent to be valid. Traditionally, there has been confusion as to whether the doctrine of informed consent was rooted in assault and battery or negligence. Most courts now reserve the assault-and-battery theory for those cases where the patient did not consent to the procedure performed. Negligence has become the basis for cases where the consent was obtained without the physician making the proper disclosure to the patient (the patient was given too little information to be able to give an informed consent).
It is generally accepted that whenever a patient seeks treatment from a dentist, he gives his or her implicit consent to certain types of touching. This means that even though a patient never explicitly tells the dentist that the dentist can touch his teeth with an explorer, the dentist can do so without fear of liability for a battery. However, the dentist must make a reasonable disclosure of the material facts relevant to the patient's decision.
Three standards have been developed as to what...