Consent to treatment

Explains your rights to consent to (or refuse) treatment, including what 'consent' means, when you can be treated without your consent, and how to make a complaint. Applies to England and Wales.

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If you have a mental health problem, your doctor may suggest certain kinds of treatment for you. In most situations, a healthcare professional can’t lawfully treat you unless you agree to that treatment.

Quick facts

  • Generally, you need to give your consent before receiving any kind of health treatment. To give consent, you need to have capacity to decide, have enough information to make that decision, and give your consent freely.
  • If you are treated without your consent then it is usually gainst the law. However, there are some exceptions. You can be legally treated without your consent if:
    • you are detained (sectioned) under some sections of the Mental Health Act.
    • you don't have capacity to decide whether to have treatment.
    • it's emergency life-saving treatment.
  • The rules on if you could be treated without your consent are slightly different depending whether you are:
    • living in the community (e.g. at home or in a care home), and not subject to any restrictions
    • a voluntary patient (having in-patient treatment in a psychiatric hospital of your own free will)
    • on a community treatment order (CTO)
    • sectioned in hospital.
  • If you don’t have capacity to make a decision about your treatment, the health professional in charge of your treatment will normally make the decision for you. They have to take your best interests into consideration when doing this.
  • If you’re worried that you may one day lose capacity to make your own decisions about treatment, you can plan ahead by making an advance decisionadvance statement or lasting power of attorney.

Please note

  • This guide covers agreeing to treatment from the point of view of a person with a mental health problem.
  • This guide applies to England and Wales.
  • This guide contains general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend you get advice from a specialist legal adviser or solicitor who will help you with your individual situation and needs. See Useful contacts for more information.
  • The legal information in this guide does not apply to children unless specifically stated.


This information was published in March 2018. We will revise it in 2020.

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