Informed consent

Informed consent is the process of information exchange between you and your surgeon to ensure you understand your condition and any proposed surgical treatment. You have the right to make a voluntary choice to accept or refuse treatment.  

To make an informed decision and give valid consent, patients need access to appropriate and readily understandable information about:

  • treatment options
  • associated risks
  • expected outcomes.

To be well informed, information should include, but not necessarily be limited to:

  • information about the medical condition
  • investigation options
  • treatment options
  • benefits
  • possible adverse effects of investigations or treatment, and the
  • likely result if treatment is not undertaken.

College position paper on Informed Consent (PDF 101.96KB) (PDF 101.96KB)
College position paper on Open Disclosure (PDF 50.09KB)

Informed financial consent

Informed financial consent is the exchange between you and your surgeon that enables you to understand the costs involved and the likely fees to be charged by your surgeon and other health professionals who might be involved in your care.

College position paper on informed financial consent (PDF 93.29KB)
Commonwealth Department of Health information 
Medical Council of New Zealand's statement on informed consent

Fees for surgery

Surgeons do not have a standard set of fees. What should I ask my surgeon about fees, what is the gap, what is unreasonable and what are my rights? The information below can help with these issues.

Know your rights

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has a position paper on surgeons fees (PDF 124.04KB) and has developed an information sheet to support patients (PDF 423.22KB) and referring doctors of the issues surrounding surgical fees.

The information sheet details the rights of patients and questions to ask, and has been produced in close consultation with consumer advocates, health insurers, the ACCC and other key groups.

Key points on the information sheet are, RACS:

  • strongly supports full disclosure and transparency of fees as early as possible in the patient-doctor relationship
  • advocates that patients understand all available treatment options
  • encourages concerned patients to seek second opinions on recommended treatments and the fees to be charged.

Reporting potentially excessive fees

Any patient facing potentially excessive out-of-pocket fees can contact RACS on:

Professional Standards
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
Phone: +61 3 9249 1200
Email: professional.standards@surgeons.org

Information about surgical procedures

Ask your surgeon to explain what you can expect and any risks involved. Take time to understand the information when deciding about surgery.

Find information on some common surgical procedures in the Surgery section of the Better Health Channel site. The government website healthdirect has an A-Z list of surgical procedures.

What do I need to do to prepare for surgery?

Your surgeon or the hospital will give you clear information on:

  • whether you need to stop eating and/or drinking in the hours before your operation
  • whether you should stop taking your usual medications before going into hospital
  • what to bring with you into hospital
  • whether you'll need to stay in hospital overnight and, if so, for how long.

National elective surgery urgency categorisation

RACS assisted in the development of the National elective surgery urgency categorisation. Its purpose is to promote national consistency and comparability in urgency categorisation and improve equity of access for patients undergoing elective surgery.

Cessation of smoking

Medical tourism

Undergoing surgery involves a degree of risk, no matter where it is performed.

All countries have different standards of medical care, surgical training and credentialing of medical practitioners. The following risks need to be considered if medical care is sought outside of Australia and New Zealand – Read the Medical Tourism Patient Fact Sheet (PDF 148.03KB).

How do I find a surgeon?

The RACS Find a Surgeon directory is a listing of Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) who meet the requirements of the College's CPD program and have opted to be included on the list. Note this does not include all surgeons.

The main thing to keep in mind is that RACS surgeons are highly trained and qualified to perform surgery in Australia and New Zealand. A RACS surgeon can be identified by the letters FRACS.

How can I find out if my surgeon is properly qualified?

RACS certified surgeons can be found through the RACS Find a Surgeon directory (note this doesn't include all surgeons). Qualified specialist surgeons are also listed by the Medical Board of Australia and the Medical Council of New Zealand, and can be located on their websites.

You are encouraged to ask for your surgeon's qualifications, and if in doubt contact the relevant regulatory authority.

What are the usual qualifications for a surgeon?

All surgeons must first qualify as doctors, so they will have a university medical degree.

On passing the exam and assessment of clinical experience, they are admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS), and can use the post nominal FRACS.

What do the letters after a surgeon's name mean?

FRACS: Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The letters FRACS after a surgeon's name mean that the surgeon's education and training, professional qualifications, and surgical competence have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, of which the surgeon is a current Fellow, and recognised by the regulatory authorities as a specialist.

How can I find out if my surgeon is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons?

Use the Find A Surgeon listing or contact the Fellowship Officer to confirm that your surgeon is a Fellow of the College. Find A Surgeon is an opt-in listing of active Fellows who meet the requirements of the College's Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program. Alternatively, the Fellowship Officer can be contacted by email fellowship.admissions@surgeons.org or telephone +61 3 9249 1200.

What are the standards my surgeon is expected to uphold?

All Fellows of the College are expected to abide by the College's Code of Conduct and are held accountable to this standard for the care of patients and their professional behaviour.

How can I access a surgeon?

You will need a referral from a general practitioner (or another medical specialist) to see a specialist surgeon. The College does not provide recommendations for individual surgeons or surgical procedures. Your general practitioner will have a referral network and can help you with recommendations.

How do I get a second opinion?

If you are not happy with the course of treatment recommended or the associated fees to be charged, we encourage you to seek a second opinion. It is important that you are comfortable with the treatment proposed and understand all of your available options. Your initial referring doctor will provide you with a referral to another surgeon.

Is my doctor qualified to be called a "Specialist Plastic Surgeon"?

The benchmark qualification for a trained plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New Zealand and Australia is a FRACS in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery. In Australia, the Medical Board of Australia states that the "Specialist Plastic Surgeon" title can only be used by a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) trained in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

In New Zealand, the title "Plastic Surgeon" can only be used by a surgeon who has been granted vocational registration in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery by the Medical Council of New Zealand.

For more information visit the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons or New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons websites.

What do I do if I have a complaint about a surgeon?

If you have any complaints or concerns about a surgeon you can raise this directly with the surgeon or the hospital or you can contact the relevant authority in Australia or New Zealand.

Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Authority 
Medical Council of New Zealand 
The Health and Disability Commissioner, New Zealand

RACS also has a formal process for lodging complaints about RACS Fellows who may have breached the RACS Code of Conduct. If you would like to make a complaint please consult RACS Complaints.

If you need help to complete the form please contact the Manager Complaints Resolution phone 1800 892 491 (Australia) or 0800 787 470 (New Zealand).

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