Right to information
You have a right to information about your condition, its nature and consequences, your medical examination, and/or your proposed treatment. Your attending care provider is obliged to inform you or have someone else inform you about the nature of the proposed treatment and/or examinations. In addition, they must inform you of any alternative treatment options, potential risks, consequences and side effects, and your prospects following treatment.
You can also request this information in writing. Despite the fact that physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals will do their best to inform you as clearly as possible, it is possible that you may not fully understand or remember all the information provided. In this case, you can always ask for additional information.
Exception to providing information
There is an exception to the care provider’s obligation to inform the patient. This is also known as ‘therapeutic exception’. This means that the care provider may withhold information from the patient if he or she considers that its disclosure could be seriously detrimental to the patient. This only occurs in very exceptional cases. Sometimes it may be more beneficial to provide information a little bit at a time.
The right not to know
Furthermore, the patient has the ‘right not to know’. If a patient indicates that they do not wish to receive certain information (or no information at all), the care provider will respect this wish in principle. However, if, as a result of withholding information, the patient or others could potentially be seriously affected, the care provider may still decide to provide the patient with the information (despite the patient’s wishes to the contrary).
It is important that you as a patient provide all the information necessary for your treatment to be successful. You are expected to provide the care provider with as much information as possible.
Consent to examination and/or treatment
In principle, an examination or treatment will not commence until you have given your consent. You always have the right to refuse examination or treatment. Consent is explicitly sought for intrusive treatment. In all other cases, care providers will assume that they have your implied consent. This may be apparent from your cooperative behavior, for example. Once you have given your consent, you can always withdraw it. If you are unable to give your consent, someone else will need to do this for you.