When Patients Refuse Treatment

Is it negligence if the patient elects not to “follow doctor’s orders”?

E. Burke Giblin, Esq., and Christina M. Scarpa, Esq.

A common theory of negligence raised against physicians, including orthopaedic surgeons, is the doctrine of informed consent. That a doctor has a duty to explain, in terms understandable to the patient, what he or she intends to do before a patient begins a course of treatment is well known. To comply with the doctrine of informed consent, physicians must present patients with the information necessary for them to make a truly informed decision, including the intended benefits of, alternatives to, and the possible risks and complications of that treatment or procedure.

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