This series highlights common medicolegal issues in general practice. Written by a team from medical defence organisation Avant, the scenarios are based on a range of previous cases with details changed for privacy and some issues summarised for discussion. This scenario of a woman who is prescribed lithium for bipolar disorder and becomes pregnant two years later illustrates the importance of informed consent as a patient-centred process and the need for a structured approach to monitoring long-term use of medications.
Australian law and professional codes of practice recognise the right of patients to make informed decisions about the medical treatment they receive. It is essential that sufficient information about the potential benefits and risks of treatment is disclosed, to ensure patients consent only to the risks that are acceptable to them. This is especially important for long-term medications, particularly those that may potentially impact on a patient’s fertility or a pregnancy.