How do you document refusal of treatment?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Documenting the informed refusal of treatment is an important aspect of healthcare practice. It involves recording the details of a patient’s decision to decline a recommended intervention or treatment. Here is a detailed explanation of how to document the informed refusal of treatment:

1. Describe the intervention offered:
Begin by clearly stating the specific intervention or treatment that was recommended to the patient. Provide a brief description of the procedure, medication, or therapy that was proposed. Use simple and concise language to ensure the patient can understand the details of the intervention.

2. Identify the reasons the intervention was offered:
Explain the reasons why the healthcare provider recommended the intervention. This could include the diagnosis, symptoms, or medical condition that the intervention is intended to address. It is important to provide a rationale for why the intervention was deemed necessary or beneficial for the patient’s health.

3. Identify the potential benefits and risks of the intervention:
Outline the potential benefits that the intervention could have for the patient. This may include improvements in symptoms, prevention of complications, or overall health outcomes. Additionally, it is crucial to discuss the potential risks and side effects associated with the intervention. Clearly describe the possible adverse effects, complications, or negative outcomes that could occur.

4. Note that the patient has been told of the risks:
Explicitly state that the patient has been informed about the risks and potential negative consequences of not accepting the intervention. Emphasize that the patient has been made aware of the possible jeopardy to their life or health by declining the recommended treatment. This ensures that the patient understands the gravity of their decision and the implications it may have on their health.

5. Document the patient’s decision:
Record the patient’s decision to refuse the recommended intervention. Include the date and time of the refusal, as well as the patient’s signature or acknowledgement of their decision. This serves as evidence that the patient has been informed and has made an autonomous choice regarding their healthcare.

6. Provide space for the patient’s comments or concerns:
Allow the patient to express any concerns, doubts, or reasons for their refusal. This can be done by providing a section for the patient to write or verbally communicate their thoughts. Documenting this information demonstrates that the patient’s perspective was considered and respected in the decision-making process.

7. Obtain a witness signature:
If possible, have a witness present during the discussion of the intervention and the patient’s refusal. This witness can be another healthcare professional or a family member. Their signature serves as further confirmation that the conversation took place and the patient’s decision was properly documented.

Remember, documenting the informed refusal of treatment is crucial for legal and ethical reasons. It ensures that healthcare providers have fulfilled their duty to inform the patient of their options and potential consequences. This documentation also protects both the patient and the healthcare provider in case of any future legal or ethical disputes.