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Medical/dental practitioners    


This page contains informations for medical and dental practitioners including:

  • how to seek consent to carry out treatment

  • what happens when you make a request to carry out medical and dental treatment

  • who is a person responsible

Our publications page has further information, or you can contact us.

How to seek consent to carry out treatment

If you are a treating medical or dental practitioner seeking consent to carry out treatment for a person under guardianship of the Public Guardian, print off and complete our form and fax us.

You can also apply for consent by letter. You need to include the following information:

  • What is the proposed treatment for
  • For what period of time is consent sought
  • The general nature and effects of the proposed treatment
  • The risks associated with the proposed treatment
  • The general nature, effects and risks associated with alternative treatments or no treatment
  • What are the views of the person under guardianship and whether he or she is objecting to the proposed treatment.

A verbal application can be made for a proposed treatment that is considered a minor medical treatment.

If you assess a patient as being able to provide their own consent to medical treatment, you should inform the office. In this event, please provide information detailing your treatment plan.

Requests can be made over the phone if the proposed treatment needs to be carried out quickly, but must be confirmed in writing as soon as possible. 


What happens when we receive a request for consent?

When our office receives a request for consent to a proposed treatment our staff will:

  • ask questions to understand the condition of the person, courses of treatment available, why a particular treatment is proposed, the general nature and effect of courses of treatment as well as any risks involved

  • discuss the treatment with the person under guardianship to gain their view

  • seek a second medical opinion if necessary

  • discuss the treatment with close relatives or friends if appropriate

  • give consent or withhold consent to the proposed treatment.

Consent to treatment can only be given if the treatment promotes and maintains the person's health and well being. In consenting to a proposed medical or dental treatment we may attach time limits or other conditions to the consent. We can consent to individual treatments, a course of treatment or treatment plans.


Who is a person responsible?

When a person is unable to give consent to treatment, medical and dental practitioners have a responsibility to seek consent from the patient's person responsible.

A person responsible is not necessarily the person's next of kin but is;

  • A guardian (that is the Public Guardian, or an enduring guardian, or a private guardian) who has the function of consenting to medical, dental and health care treatments;

    Or, if there is no guardian appointed with this authority:

  • A spouse, de facto or same sex partner with whom the person has a close, continuing relationship;

Or, if there is no guardian such spouse, defacto or same sex partner:

  • An unpaid carer who is now providing support to the person or who provided this support before the person entered residential care;

    Or if there is no carer:

  • A relative or friend who has a close personal relationship with the person.

It is up to the medical or dental practitioner to determine who the person responsible is. A person who is considered to be the person responsible can decline, in writing, to have the responsibility of consenting to a particular medical or dental treatment. The medical practitioner must then request consent from the next person down on the list of people who qualify to be person responsible (see above list).



Part 5 of the Guardianship Act 1987

Part 5 of the Guardianship Act 1987 concerns the provision of consent to medical and dental treatment for people who are unable to consent for themselves. It applies to all people in NSW who are 16 years and over.

Our booklet 'Substitute Consent; what the law says' is a useful resource for medical and dental practitioners. It provides information about the legal requirements to seek consent from patients prior to giving treatment.



Decision Making and Palliative care

Palliative Care Checklist [pdf 53KB] lets practitioners know what kind of information we require as part of our decision making process.

End of Life Planning Factsheet [pdf 122KB] provides details about the role of the Public Guardian in Palliative Care Planning