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How is consent obtained in an emergency when a patient is unable to respond and a substitute decision maker has not been identified?

Obtaining informed consent prior to performing a procedure is an essential component of patient care and is vital for patient safety. As a result, medical radiation and imaging technologists ensure that consent is obtained prior to each procedure they perform, as required by legislation and the CMRITO Standards of Practice, and that the consent is specific, informed, and maintained throughout the procedure.

Whether expressed consent is verbal or written, it must be obtained before the procedure begins. The patient may withdraw consent at any time during the procedure. If a patient withdraws consent, the procedure must stop.

To learn more about the concept of consent and the consent process, please read the CMRITO publication What you must know about … consent and watch the accompanying webinar.

There are exceptions in obtaining consent when emergency treatment is required. It is considered an emergency if a person is experiencing severe suffering or is at risk of sustaining serious bodily harm, is incapable of consenting, and a substitute decision maker has not been identified. In situations where emergency treatment is necessary, the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA) includes provisions that outline how the medical practitioner proposing the treatment to the patient without consent should proceed. More information about emergency treatment for patients can be found in section 25 of the HCCA.

The CMRITO Jurisprudence module 7: Consent further explains how the HCCA emergency treatment clause affects MRITs. In particular, the decision-making guides on pages 10 and 11 are helpful in determining when the emergency treatment exceptions apply.

(This question originally appeared in theSummer 2023 issue of Insights.)

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