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Stephen Henderson

Understanding Modern Patient Consent

Stephen Henderson

Valid consent is the foundation stone of safe and legal practice in all aspects of healthcare. In this session Stephen will set out the legal principles that the UK Courts and the GDC apply when considering cases. He will illustrate this section with a review of the latest published legal cases that have been decided in court.

Implant dentistry is an important treatment choice for patients. It is invariably elective and in many circumstances there are alternatives. This puts an obligation upon the practitioner to explain the choices properly and carefully, particularly as there are often significant financial consequences for patients when agreeing to a particular treatment plan.

In the second part of the session Stephen will apply the principles of valid consent to implant dentistry. Delegates will be familiar with the names of the key cases Bolam, Hunter and Hanley, Montgomery but most will not know why these cases are important and why these medical cases have any relevance in dental care. Inevitably the question of how consent can be demonstrated is asked and in this part of the session Stephen will explain what the Courts and the GDC expects to see in a record.

Throughout the talk Stephen will reflect upon the challenges that practitioners in the UK face and discuss the steps that practitioners can take to reduce their risk of litigation and regulatory investigation.

This talk will be illustrated with examples drawn from Stephen’s career in medico-legal practice.

Learning Objectives

  • To appreciate what is involved in obtaining valid consent for examination and treatment
  • To be familiar with the basic concepts of valid consent
  • To be able to describe the legal principles involved in consent
  • To be able to explain to their team member colleagues what level of information is necessary to give a patient during the consent process
  • To appreciate the key legal cases that form the basis of current best practice


Stephen is a Specialist in Oral Surgery who qualified in London in 1984. After five years in full time hospital practice he went into general dental practice in Oxford. He continued to work part-time in the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery department of the John Radcliffe Hospital until 2000, when he joined Dental Protection. He converted his practice to a largely private referral oral surgery practice when he became a full time adviser at DP in 2007. He continues to work as a visiting specialist in the same practice.

In December 2017 he left DP and joined MDDUS. In his medico-legal career Stephen’s expertise has been complex GDC cases as his medical law degree included a dissertation on Regulatory Law in UK. He has experience of international regulators and the management of claims in a range of jurisdictions.

He has lectured widely in the UK and internationally on a range of medico-legal issues and oral surgery.

Qualifications: BDS LLM FFGDP(hon)