Refusal of medical treatment: Rights and consequences
What can be the reasons why some patients deem refusal of medical treatment is necessary? What can be the consequences and limitations of refusing medical treatment?
You may be generally healthy now, but every day, many people are actually contemplating if they would seek medical treatment or not. There are so many reasons why the refusal of medical treatment may be made by some of them. Even people from other countries face that reality day after day, even if the health treatment abroad is way cheaper. What can be the reasons why some patients deem refusal of medical treatment is necessary? What can be the consequences and limitations of refusing medical treatment?
Refusal of medical treatment: Do I have the right?
Patients and relatives have the right to refuse medical treatment in most cases. Doctors and hospitals all over the world enforce the giving and securing of consent as part of their standard procedure in preparation for a procedure of treatment. If a patient refuses, a waiver should be signed and the patient must be informed of the consequences of his action. If he refuses medical treatment recommended by the doctor, whatever complication that could happen or worsening of the disease will not be the responsibility of the doctor, medical staff, and the hospital. Some even go the extra mile and request the patient to leave the hospital against the doctor’s advice (DAMA or discharge against medical advice).
Refusal of medical treatment must be made voluntarily and with appropriate information. A patient should decide to voluntarily reject a treatment given that the procedure or services have been efficiently and thoroughly explained, and the consequences or possible effects of them refusing the care should also be mentioned.
Refusal of medical treatment: The exceptions
We mentioned earlier that this right can be practiced in most cases. However, there are some instances where the right to refuse treatment is bypassed.
Emergency situations. In a life-and-death situation following an accident or a condition, paramedics do the best they can and save the life of a patient as fast as they could. They do not have the luxury of time to ask the patient if they want the treatment or not. It is a patient’s life and safety that are the responsibilities of the medical personnel.
Patients with altered mental status. Mental disability is another limitation of this right. If the patient is not in his right mind when refusing treatment, the doctor can decide whether or not he would push through with the treatment, especially if it would mean saving his life. Patients who also have altered mental stability due to a brain injury or intake of illegal drugs or alcohol lose their right to refuse medical interventions.
Minors. If the patient is a child, we would normally think that parents and guardians are the ones who make all the decisions for them. But in the case of refusal of medical treatment, a parent or guardian doesn’t have the authority to refuse treatment for the child. Most cases involve religious beliefs as a reason for refusing treatment, but this is an exemption to that rule since parents cannot invoke or cite their right to freedom of religion just for their child to be left untreated.
A threat to others. If a patient has a highly communicable or contagious disease, his right to refuse medical treatment is bypassed. If the disease is bound to be a threat to the community, the patient inflicted by it should be isolated and treated to prevent the spread of infection or virus. Another example is when a patient poses a risk of inflicting harm to others. He should be treated and isolated as he poses danger to other people.