BMA guidance

Consent and refusal by adults with decision-making capacity

This toolkit provides guidance on when and how to seek consent for treatment and research from adults with decision-making capacity and the ethical and legal principles that apply.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 31 January 2024
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

What you'll get from this toolkit

  • Guidance on when, how and by whom consent for treatment or research should be sought
  • An understanding of how to ensure that the consent obtained is valid
  • Information about how to respond when patients refuse consent
  • Links to other guidance and resources from the BMA and other bodies including the General Medical Council and the health departments.

You may also be interested to see our core ethics guidance


How to use this toolkit

​​The purpose of this toolkit is not to provide definitive answers for every situation but to identify the key factors that need to be considered when decisions are made; to summarise the relevant legal considerations; and to signpost other key professional guidance. It is not a set of rules or instructions, or a substitute for careful reflection and discussion with colleagues.


  • Introduction to consent and refusal
  • Capacity to consent
  • Sharing information with patients
  • Who is responsible for seeking consent?
  • Refusal of consent
  • Advance care planning
  • Consent for emergency treatment
  • Compulsory treatment under mental health legislation
  • Consent for research
  • Consent for teaching purposes