Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Views And Reviews

New guidance from the GMC: what constitutes meaningful dialogue?

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 12 October 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m3933

Rapid Response:

Informed Consent and the Government's Legal Position

Dear Editor

As I understand it the British government's legal position over vaccination presently hinges on informed consent [1]. The citizen or patient makes a decision on what should be a full disclosure of the benefits and risks [2], and while the patient may theoretically be able to sue if something goes wrong the risk in the first place lies with the patient rather than state or the manufacturer.

But surely the government will put itself in an invidious positon and undermine its own legal defence if it seeks to limit public discussion about products and promotes a public hue and cry over citizens accepting them [3,4,5].

I am not for a second suggesting that anyone ought to be able to promote false information about products only that they must be allowed to discuss them publicly in a normal, civilised way like anything else [6]. Otherwise the legal condition for informed consent will not exist, and the government may nullify its position, particularly if relevant information was prevented from coming to public light by its actions.

[1] John Stone, 'Re: We can change practice—can we also change culture?', 13 August 2020,

[2] Daniel Sokol, 'New guidance from the GMC: what constitutes meaningful dialogue?',
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 12 October 2020)

[3] ‘ Social media giants agree package of measures with UK Government to tackle vaccine disinformation’ GOV.UK, 8 November 2020,

[4] Danyel  Hussain, ‘GCHQ spies launch cyber counter-attack against anti-vaccine propaganda being spread by Russia’ , Daily Mail 9 November 2020,

[5] Jon (sic) Stone, 'Coronavirus vaccine: Labour calls for emergency censorship laws for anti-vax content', Independent 15 November 2020,

[6] John Stone, 'Re: New guidance from the GMC: what constitutes meaningful dialogue? (Coercive atmosphere over vaccination)', 13 November 2020,

Competing interests:, an on-line daily journal, concerns itself with the potential environmental sources for the proliferation of autism, neurological impairment, immune dysfunction and chronic disease. I receive no payment as UK Editor

16 November 2020
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22