Consent to medical treatment - Proposed changes to the law

Consultation closed on 17 September 2020

Reason for the proposed Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care (Restrictive Practices) Amendment Bill 2020

Sometimes when a patient presents at a hospital or a clinic they exhibit behaviours that pose a risk to themselves and to others. These challenging behaviours may be caused by intoxication from drugs and alcohol, a condition such as delirium. The patient may not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves, and may need assessment and treatment.

Changes to the Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 (Consent Act) are being proposed to ensure that health practitioners have the appropriate legal framework to enable them to protect patients, themselves and others.

Proposed changes

The proposed changes include provisions to enable authorised persons to use restrictive practices and provide medical treatment without consent in strictly limited circumstances, (that is only when the patient’s behaviour places them at risk of harming themselves, others, or property, and they are unable to consent due to impaired decision-making capacity). Treatment may only be provided to treat the condition causing the risk of harm and conditions arising from the harm (these changes do not impact current practices requiring consent with regard to managing ongoing illnesses).

Authorised persons will only have authority to exercise their powers for as long as necessary or for up to 24 hours (12 hours for children), whichever is the lesser.

The Bill also provides for classes of health practitioners to be prescribed in the regulations to extend the scope of the Act so that nurse practitioners, advance practice nurses and SA Ambulance Officers are captured for the provision of treatment that is within their scope of practice. These changes are intended to align the Act to current practice within the health care system.

The 2017 Bill and Consultation

In 2017 under the previous government, the Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care (Restrictive Practices) Amendment Bill 2017 was prepared to be introduced to Parliament. It was the subject of wide consultation at that time.

Unfortunately the SA Governor prorogued parliament before the introduction of the Bill in December 2017 in preparation for the March 2018 election and the proposed changes were not progressed. 

The submissions made on the 2017 Bill are acknowledged and have been considered in the drafting of the current Bill. We encourage those that made a submission in the 2017 consultation to do so again to ensure your views are properly considered in this new consultation process.

Where to find more information

See the Changes to the Consent Act fact sheet (PDF 92KB) that outlines in more detail the proposed changes, why they are required and what they will mean or email