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"Informed consent" is a legal instrument that allows individuals to define their own interests and to protect their bodily privacy. In current medical practice, patients who have consented to surgery are considered to have implied consent to anaesthesia, even though anaesthesia is associated with its own particular set of risks and consequences that are quite separate from those associated with surgery. In addition, anaesthetists often perform interventions that are the only medical treatment received by a patient. Anaesthetists, therefore, should always obtain separate consent for anaesthesia, and should regard the process of consent as a stimulus for active, fluid reciprocal discussion with patients about treatment options.
Journal of Medical Ethics © 2004 BMJ