A Global Analysis
Edited by Thierry Vansweevelt and Nicola Glover-Thomas
Chapter 6: Informed consent in Belgium and France
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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