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Counseling, Informed Choice, Informed Consent, and the Rights of the Client

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Counseling, Informed Choice, Informed Consent, and the Rights of the Client in Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care

What Is Counseling?

Counseling is the process of helping clients make voluntary and informed decisions about their individual care. It is a two-way exchange of information that involves listening to clients and informing them of their options. Counseling is always responsive to each client's individual needs and values. All providers, regardless of their professional backgrounds and educational credentials, need special training in counseling and informed choice.

AVSC publishes a number of materials on counseling for family planning clients, including client-education brochures, a curriculum on family planning counseling, and publications on the special counseling needs of clients interested in sterilization. For more information, see the AVSC publications on Counseling, informed choice, and informed consent and AVSC's Client education materials.

Return to the Informed Choice page.

What Is Informed Choice?

Informed choice refers to the process by which an individual arrives at a decision about health care. It is a process that is based upon access to, and full understanding of, all necessary information from the client's perspective. The process should result in a free and informed decision by the individual about whether or not s/he desires to obtain health services and, if so, what method or procedure s/he will choose and consent to receive.

AVSC publishes a number of materials on counseling and informed choice in family planning, including publications on the special needs of sterilization clients. For more information, see the AVSC publications on Counseling, informed choice, and informed consent.

Return to the Informed Choice page.

What Is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is the communication between client and provider that confirms that the client has made a voluntary choice to use or receive a medical method or procedure. Informed consent can only be obtained after the client has been given information about the nature of the medical procedure, its associated risks and benefits, and other alternatives. Voluntary consent cannot be obtained by means of special inducement, force, fraud, deceit, duress, bias, or other forms of coercion or misrepresentation.

Health care providers are often required by law or institutional policies to obtain informed consent before the administration of certain medical procedures. Although informed consent is often equated with a signed written form used to document an individual's decision, written consent is neither inherently necessary nor sufficient. Regardless of the presence or absence of written documentation, informed consent requires that providers ensure that a client receiving a method or treatment has knowingly and voluntarily agreed to be treated. Whether informed consent is written or verbal, however, it cannot replace the informed choice process, which is dependent on counseling and the information exchange between providers and clients.

Informed Consent and Voluntary Sterilization

Informed and voluntary client consent is especially important before a medical procedure that has a permanent or long-acting effect or that requires the skills of a trained provider. In family planning, voluntary sterilization is unique in that it involves a surgical procedure to end fertility permanently. Therefore, many providers and funding agencies that support sterilization services, specify the elements for informed consent and require written documentation of the client's consent. Although the purpose of informed consent should be to ensure the client's right to make a voluntary and informed decision, written consent is often required to provide evidence of provider compliance with informed consent requirements and to reinforce the importance of this client right.

Return to the Informed Choice page.

What Are the Rights of the Client?

Every family planning client has the right to:
  1. Information: To learn about the benefits and availability of family planning.
  2. Access: To obtain services regardless of gender, creed, color, marital status, or location.
  3. Choice: To decide freely whether to practice family planning and which method to use.
  4. Safety: To be able to practice safe and effective family planning.
  5. Privacy: To have a private environment during counseling or services.
  6. Confidentiality: To be assured that any personal information will remain confidential.
  7. Dignity: To be treated with courtesy, consideration, and attentiveness.
  8. Comfort: To feel comfortable when receiving services.
  9. Continuity: To receive contraceptive services and supplies for as long as needed.
  10. Opinion: To express views on the services offered.

Adapted from "The Rights of the Client," a poster by the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Return to the Informed Choice page.


[ || Pregnancy || Informed Choice || Infections and Diseases || Quality of Care || Emerging Issues ]
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Counseling, Informed Choice, Informed Consent, and the Rights of the Client
contraception,mst,prévention