Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters New UK law on consent

New law on consent will overload seriously ill patients

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 07 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1787
  1. Santhanam Sundar, consultant oncologist1
  1. 1Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK
  1. sundar{at}

The judgment in the Montgomery case will burden most patients with “information overload” for the sake of benefiting a minority.1 In particular, patients with a serious illness such as cancer will be left more distressed because they are often not in a good enough physical or psychological state to logically and rationally analyse every bit of detailed information provided, and neither do they have the luxury of time.

Franz J Ingelfinger, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, died from complications of oesophageal cancer in 1980. Having previously dealt with countless manuscripts containing a vast amount of clinical trial data, he would have been expected to be capable of logically and rationally analysing every bit of medical information. But as a patient with oesophageal cancer, he was bewildered by information and opinions provided in good faith by various esteemed colleagues. As a patient, he preferred a certain degree of paternalism from his physician to guide him through his treatment choices.2 3

The new law will inevitably lead to patients being given detailed information on comparatively uncommon as well as rarer serious complications. Ordinary patients, who often have less clinical and statistical knowledge than Dr Ingelfinger, will struggle to process this exhaustive information.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1787


  • Competing interests: None declared.