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Informed Consent (cont.)

Informed Consent, The Right to Refuse Treatment

Except for legally authorized involuntary treatment, patients who are legally competent to make medical decisions and who are judged by health care providers to have decision-making capacity have the legal and moral right to refuse any or all treatment. This is true even if the patient chooses to make a "bad decision" that may result in serious disability or even death.

  • To document that you have been given the option of obtaining a recommended treatment or test and have chosen not to, you may be asked to sign an Against Medical Advice (AMA) form to protect the health care provider from legal liability for not providing the disputed treatment. Refusing a test, treatment, or procedure does not necessarily mean that you are refusing all care. The next best treatment should always be offered to anyone who refuses the recommended care.


  • If, because of intoxication, injury, illness, emotional stress, or other reason, a health care provider decides that a patient does not have decision-making capacity, the patient may not be able to refuse treatment. The law presumes that the average reasonable person would consent to treatment in most emergencies to prevent permanent disability or death.


  • Advance directives and living wills are documents that you can complete before an emergency occurs. These legal documents direct doctors and other health care providers as to what specific treatments you want, or do not want, should illness or injury prevent you from having decision-making capacity.

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