Refusal of Emergency Medical Treatment: Case Studies and Ethical Foundations

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Abstract

Informed consent is an important component of emergency medical treatment. Most emergency department patients can provide informed consent for treatment upon arrival. Informed consent should also be obtained for emergency medical interventions that may entail significant risk. A related concept to informed consent is informed refusal of treatment. Patients may refuse emergency medical treatment during their evaluation and treatment. This article addresses important considerations for patients who refuse treatment, including case studies and discussion of definitions, epidemiology, assessment of decisional capacity, information delivery, medicolegal considerations, and alternative care plans.

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