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Consent to treatment

Explains your rights around giving consent to or refusing treatment. Find out what consent means, when you could be treated without your consent, and how to make complaints.

Overview of consent to treatment

Healthcare professionals may suggest certain kinds of treatments for your mental health problem. But in most situations, they can't lawfully treat you unless you agree to that treatment. This is called giving consent.

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're treated without your consent, this is usually against the law. However, there are some exceptions. You can legally receive treatment without your consent if:
    • You are detained, also called sectioned, under some sections of the Mental Health Act. For more information, see our pages on sectioning.
    • You don't have capacity to decide whether to have treatment. For more information, see our pages on capacity.
    • It's an emergency life-saving treatment.
  • The rules on being treated without your consent are slightly different depending on whether you are:
    • Living in the community without restrictions. For example, at home or in a care home.
    • A voluntary patient. For example, having in-patient treatment in a psychiatric hospital of your own free will.
    • On a community treatment order (CTO).
    • In hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act.
  • If you don't have capacity to make a decision about treatment, the health professional in charge of your treatment will normally make a decision for you. They have to consider your best interests 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. This might include making an advance decision, advance statement or lasting power of attorney.
  • If you feel that you've been forced to have treatment that you haven't given consent to, you can make a complaint.

This information was published in September 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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