Failure to inform patients is not only against the law but also a breach of human rights legislation, which gives the patient the absolute right of autonomy over his or her body.
Despite this, doctors are deliberately withholding information about the dangers of routine screening and clinical procedures, says WDDTY. And because doctors are so well protected by the medical establishment that proving it in a court of law is a different matter.
WDDTY's findings are backed up by a Consumers Association survey which found that ¼ of patients were given no information unless they asked; 14% didn't ask all the questions they wanted to and 63% didn't ask any questions at all as they assumed they would be told everything they needed to know.
Further evidence revealed by one study showed that more than half the women monitored signed the consent form within 30 seconds of being handed it, suggesting they had skim-read it at best (J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics, 2008; 3: 89-97).
In a study of patients who gave their consent prior to surgery, 44 per cent either did not understand, or had an 'unsatisfactory' understanding of, what they were signing (Kathmandu Univ Med J, 2005; 3: 271-3). In another study, just 29 per cent were considered to have given truly informed consent prior to surgery (Am J Surg, 2009; 198: 420-35).
WDDTY is collating cases of informed consent violation, and will; be presenting the caseload to Health Minister Andrew Lansbury with a view to tightening regulations.
Lynne McTaggart, founder of WDDTY, says: "Doctors are routinely getting away with flouting informed consent legislation because patients either doesn't know their legal rights, or thinks that the doctor knows best. They may also feel in awe of the doctor, or even bullied by them.
"However, none of these reasons is adequate when the patient is about to take a drug or start a therapy that potentially can harm - or even kill - them."
In the United States, where patient rights are paramount, doctors are reminded by the American Medical Association (AMA) that informed consent is an ethical obligation and a legal requirement.
Lynne McTaggart says: "Whilst few of us would wish to see the UK become as litigious as the US, the fact remains that British doctors are getting away with far too much. Far from being a dry legal point, true informed consent belongs at the heart of responsible and accountable medicine."
What Doctors Don't Tell You magazine is available on newsstands from 1st September priced £3.95. For further information visit www.wddty.com.