Legal Considerations of Patient Refusals of Treatment Against Medical Advice

  • Arthur R. DerseEmail author


Patients who refuse medical treatment that appears to be necessary and in their best interests pose a vexing medical, ethical, and legal challenge. Adults in the USA have the legal right to refuse treatment, including life-sustaining medical treatment. Central to the ability to exercise that right is their possession of the capacity to make the decision to accept or refuse medical treatment which may require careful assessment. A written form that documents the patient’s refusal of treatment against medical advice (“AMA” form) may be useful for evidentiary reasons, though the forms by themselves may not confer legal protection from liability. Parents who refuse treatment that is in their child’s best interest may be overridden by state and federal laws. The rights of adolescents to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment vary depending upon the maturity of the adolescent and state law.


Adolescents Against medical advice (AMA) Children Decision-making capacity Documentation Emergency exception Emergency privilege Life-sustaining medical treatment Informed consent Refusal of treatment 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, Institute for Health and Equity, and Department of Emergency MedicineMedical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA

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