It is recommended that informed consent be obtained for HBV testing. Exceptions may occur for rare occasions when a legal order is made for compulsory testing or in an emergency. On these occasions, if informed consent cannot be obtained, all appropriate information should be provided to the person before the test. In the case of compulsory testing, appropriate information includes advising the person being tested of any third-party recipients of test results.
Informed consent for testing means that the person being tested agrees to be tested on the basis of understanding the testing procedures, the reasons for testing and ibeing able to assess the personal implications of potential test results.
The person requesting the test should use their clinical judgment in securing informed consent. Clinical judgment should be based on their understanding of the context in which the test is being performed, taking into account:
- any factors which indicate an urgent need for testing such as clinical presentation, risk exposure, disease prevalence in country of origin, and individual request
- confirmation that the person being tested understands the testing process, the implications of the possible result, and how to effectively respond to the diagnosis
- that patients should also be advised of how the test result will be conveyed and the implications of HBV being a notifiable disease.
General principles of professional conduct and privacy apply when obtaining informed consent for HBV testing. In the case of testing children or people who are incapable of giving consent, then the responsibility for providing consent rests with the guardian or other person or agency legally authorised to make such decisions on the person’s behalf.
Clinicians and healthcare workers involved in HBV testing must use whatever additional supports are necessary to assist the person considering testing to become adequately informed in order to understand the implications of a positive or negative result, minimise the personal impact of any positive diagnosis, adopt health promoting behaviours and reduce anxiety. Additional supports can include access to professional on-site and telephone interpreters and referral to community hepatitis organisations and multicultural health services. Health promotion information that is culturally sensitive and language-appropriate should be provided when seeking informed consent and providing results. These resources can be accessed from community hepatitis organisations and multicultural health services.
When offering testing to patients with low English proficiency, clinicians who do not speak the preferred language of the patient should use an accredited interpreter to obtain informed consent. There are publicly funded health interpreting services available in most States and Territories. The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is available to registered health services 24 hours a day. TEL: 1300 131 450.