Informed consent of the critically ill patient and drug therapy: legal aspects

Riccardo Fresa

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7175/rhc.v4i2S.874

Abstract

Legal issues concerning the doctor-patient relationship are numerous, and belong to the wider field of professional liability in health care. This article will be dealt with the issues related to informed consent in patients temporarily unable to express consent, or patients who are in a state of temporary incapacity. If the patients are temporarily incapable, and therefore are not able to receive the information nor to express consent to treatment, the physicians’ duty to provide medical treatment and the patients’ self-determination should be considered: the patients can consent or refuse treatment only if able to understand the significance of their decision. If a patient is temporarily unable to give consent and the practitioner doesn’t have at his/her disposal a valid document reporting the patient’s wishes, it’s necessary to rely on the so called “amministratore di sostegno” (introduced in the Italian legal system by Law n. 6 of January 9th, 2004). But in the case of not deferrable treatment, as a lifesaving intervention, the rule is in dubio pro life meaning that a doctor is always legitimized by this situation of urgent need, regardless of the informed consent of the patient and/or third parties.

Keywords

Informed consent; Professional liability; Medical law

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