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Education And Debate Commentary

informed consent and risk communication in France

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 25 September 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:734
  1. Nora Moumjid, health economist (,
  2. Marie-France Callu, health lawyer2
  1. 1Research Group in Health Economics and Networks in Cancer Care, Mixed Research Unit 5823 National Centre for Scientific Research, Centre Léon Bérard, 28 Rue Laënnec, 69008 Lyon, France
  2. 2Jean Moulin Faculty of Law, Institute of Formation and Research in Health Care and Social Services, Mixed Research Unit 5823 National Centre for Scientific Research, 18 rue Chevreul, 69007 Lyon, France
  1. Correspondence to: N Moumjid

    As Mazur emphasises, the primary focus of informed consent when interpreted in a judicial context is disclosure of risk. To the uninitiated, it might seem that the notion of informed consent in clinical care in France was discovered only after the law on patient rights and healthcare quality was passed on 4 March 2002.1 However, this law, which covers individual rights in relation to the healthcare system and rights of users of healthcare, also refers to a far older and complex right: the right to free and informed consent.

    Although the Nuremberg Code is often cited in France and elsewhere as the origination of informed consent, French jurisprudence established the need to obtain informed consent as early as 1910.2 This notion was reinforced by a decree of the French Supreme Court on 28 January 1942 stating that all doctors have a fundamental obligation towards the state to obtain their patients' consent.3 In 1950, Louis Portes, then president of the French Medical Association, presented a paternalistic reflection on patient consent that later became a reference in the annals of medical law.4 …

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