Informed Consent and Health
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Informed Consent and Health

A Global Analysis

Edited by Thierry Vansweevelt and Nicola Glover-Thomas

Informed consent is the legal instrument that purports to protect an individual’s autonomy and defends against medical arbitrariness. This illuminating book investigates our evolving understanding of informed consent from a range of comparative and international perspectives, demonstrating the diversity of its interpretations around the world. Chapters offer a nuanced analysis of the problems that impede the understanding and implementation of the concept of informed consent and explore the contemporary challenges that continue to hinder both the patient and the medical community.
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Chapter 6: Informed consent in Belgium and France

Thierry Vansweevelt


This chapter deals with the law on informed consent in Belgium and France, which share a common origin – the Napoleonic Code – but still have different interpretations. The similarities between the two are obvious: both countries require informed consent, which is in principle oral consent. However, for some specific medical interventions, and to protect patients and avoid impulsive decisions, the law requires the patient’s written consent and a specific waiting period. For minors, no legal age is stipulated: minors can exercise their right to informed consent when they are capable of a reasonable evaluation of their interests, taking into account their age and maturity. But the law in both countries differs on certain points. The French Court of Cassation has chosen a more patient-friendly interpretation – the physician must prove that he or she received the patient’s informed consent; whereas in Belgium, it is the patient who must prove the physician’s negligence. Another difference is that in Belgium, the patient must prove the causal connection between negligence and damage; while in France, the mere violation of the informed consent rule causes a new kind of damage.

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