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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.


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 against 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 decision, advance statement or lasting power of attorney.
  • If you feel that you’ve been made to have treatment that you haven’t agreed to, you can take steps to challenge it.

This information was published in March 2018.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

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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