Ethically sound clinical practice includes ensuring patient consent for investigations and treatments, including screening. Consent involves a competent individual receiving material information and advice about a procedure or treatment, and making a decision based on that information and her or his preferences and values. Thus, all valid consent is by definition informed consent,1,2 and communication of material information is an essential prerequisite. What is considered material in the case of cervical screening will vary from woman to woman and will depend on her actual and perceived risk. Arguably, more information should be provided for procedures such as screening that are offered to people who are well.
While recognising the benefits of the Australian cervical screening program, we argue that current arrangements may not provide the material information required for consent.