Informed Refusal

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Informed Refusal is the second blog in this series dedicated to some of the confusing legal aspects of the dental profession. Before diving into informed refusal, we’ll begin with its counterpart, Informed Consent.

Informed Consent is permission (usually written) given by a patient to a doctor acknowledging their diagnosis and awareness of all recommended treatment options so that they can make an informed decision. The document also contains information such as cost, time involved, possible consequences, prognosis, risks, and benefits.

On the other hand, Informed Refusal is a patient’s right to refuse a part or all of the proposed treatment and alternative treatment options. Many sources maintain that refusal forms don’t protect practices from legal consequences. For the most part, if the doctor performs the appropriate action using the standard of care, makes the patient aware of everything related to treatment, and has a signed document, they’re less likely to face legal consequences. Although patients have the right to refuse diagnostic record gathering and proposed treatment, they can’t permit substandard care. Also, the clinician shouldn’t allow themselves to deliver inadequate therapy.

Whatever the patient’s reason for refusal, (economics, fear, inconvenience, or denial) as long as all bases are covered, it’s less probable to be brought up on malpractice charges. Covering all bases includes complete patient education, signed documents, providing standard of care, and meticulous record keeping. It’s also wise to consult with a malpractice attorney for guidance and to secure properly worded documents for patients to sign.

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