Should patients consent to treatment by trainees?

Dr Cordelia Thomas1

1Office Of The Health And Disability Commissioner

Maintenance of an effective medical workforce is dependent on ongoing training of medical professionals. Training includes theoretical and practical training and at some stage trainees must perform procedures for the first time.

Informed consent is the cornerstone of the NZ Code of Rights. The code requires the patients are given the information that a reasonable person in their circumstances would expect to receive. If informed some patients may refuse to be treated by a trainee.

This paper considers with reference to decided HDC cases whether patients should be informed that the person performing a procedure on them is a trainee and, if so, whether a disclaimer in the consent form is sufficient.


Dr Cordelia Thomas is the Associate Commissioner- Investigations for the Health and Disability Commissioner. She was previously the HDC Acting Chief Legal Advisor, Specialist Senior Legal Advisor and Investigations Manager.

Previously, she was the senior legal advisor for Toi te taio : the Bioethics Council.

She was a senior lecturer in law at Massey University and continues to teach Public Health Law.

Her research interests include medical law and bioethics . She has published widely and is the author of several textbooks.

About the Association

The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

The AABHL seeks to foster a distinctive Australasian voice in bioethics, and provide opportunities for international engagement through its membership, journal and conferences.

Members come from all the contributing humanities, social science and science disciplines that make up contemporary bioethics.

Many members have cross-disciplinary interests and all seek to broaden the dialogues in which all members of the wider community ultimately have an interest.

The AABHL is a supportive, creative and challenging community that provides a rich source of continuing academic refreshment and renewal.

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