Whenever your vet wants to undertake a medical or surgical procedure on your pet, they will need your consent
Whenever your vet wants to undertake a medical or surgical procedure on your pet, they will need your consent. In order for this consent to be given in an ‘informed’ way, your practice will want to make sure you have been given the information relevant to the procedure, such as risk factors, estimated cost, alternative treatment options, and the rationale for wanting to undertake the procedure recommended. By giving you this information, you can make a choice about how you want treatment for your pet to proceed. It is also critical that you tell your vet if you do not understand what they have said and ask your vet any questions you have.
Informed consent is very important because it protects both you and the veterinary practice. Consent works like a contract between yourself, as the pet owner, and the surgery. A signed consent form is the most common way to document informed consent. This is a document you will sign to show you have discussed the relevant factors and are happy for the vet to proceed.
Your vet will help you understand the procedure you are consenting to on behalf of your pet. This will help them with the treatment or management of your animal, and give you peace of mind that you understand what is happening with your pet. For example:
Explaining the reason they are recommending the procedure or medication above any other treatment options
Outlining any reasonable risk factors or side-effects and risk of inaction
Giving a reasonable estimate of the costs involved
Explaining any technical language you have said you do not understand
Discussing referral as appropriate
Outlining what to expect if you will be present for the procedure, for example if you wish to stay with your pet during euthanasia.
Your vet or nurse will also go through any questions you have on the consent form. Then, they will ask you to sign to say you have understood what has been discussed, including the estimated cost, and that you are consenting for your pet to undergo the procedure which has been recommended. You can request a copy of the consent form you have signed, for your records, if you would like one.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand or have any questions or concerns regarding what your vet is suggesting, you must let your vet know. Often these can be answered simply, putting your mind at rest. If not, it is important to discuss this with your vet, to make sure you are happy for the procedure to go ahead. Apart from in exceptional circumstances (for example if your pet will die without immediate intervention), your vet cannot do anything to your pet without your consent. As you can imagine, informed consent is really important for our vets!
- Make sure whoever gives consent is authorised.Your vet has to be satisfied that you are the owner registered in the clinical records, and are over 18, in order to accept your signature for consent. If you cannot be there, please make sure you have authorised an agent to act on your behalf.
- Give up-to-date contact details. Your vet may need or want to get hold of you during your pet’s stay to discuss changes in condition, new findings, or results that influence the treatment plan. Being available for your vet to have these discussions is very important, as if your vet cannot reach you, they will not be able to alter treatment from the original plan. If your vet does contact you to recommend a change, in this instance you can give informed consent over the phone.
- Language. If English is not your native language and you feel you may struggle to understand what you are being asked to consent to, you need to bring along a family member or friend who can help you. You can also speak to the vet ahead of time, to make sure you will be happy on the day.
Although it is a daily part of a vet’s routine, informed consent is always taken very seriously. If you or your vet feel that you are, for any reason, unable to give informed consent, your vet can help with suggestions on how to proceed. This may be with support from a family member, friend, carer or translator, depending on the circumstances of the problem.
Informed consent is vital to protect you, your pet and your vet, keeping everyone up-to-date and helping you and your vet plan the very best care for your pet.