Patients Competence and Understanding

Patients, like all other people, should be respected and given the opportunity to make their own decisions and act on their own free will. This is referred to as giving people autonomy. That one person has no authority or control over another, and in this context, the one treating and the one being treated. They should also be respected even when they are unable to freely choose.

The autonomy principle in healthcare can be stated as follows: "You shall not treat a patient without the informed agreement of the patient or his/her lawful surrogate, save in strictly circumscribed emergency" (BAILLIE, 2013). The patient or an appropriate surrogate should be informed of what treatment they need to receive and decide on whether or not to receive the treatment and should be in a position capable of making a decision.

Competence and Understanding

The patient or their surrogate should be able to understand the consequences of both accepting and not accepting the treatment. An example understanding that a painfully administered treatment will result to them getting better and refusing the treatment will only result in them getting worse. When a patient is deemed incompetent, their surrogate should be able to decide on their behalf.

Consent of Children, Adolescents, and Incompetent Patients

Surrogates are persons who have been given authority by law to decide on behalf of the patient if the patient is doubtfully competent or incompetent (BAILLIE, 2013). These may include children, adolescents, parents and grandparents among others. And it’s the person administering the treatment who is mandated with the task to inform the surrogate.

Exceptions in Emergencies

In emergency situations where the patient considered incapable to make a decision, and no surrogate is available, where life is endangered and immediate treatment I required to make changes to the dangers, treatment is administered without their consent.

Right to Refuse Treatment

Patients or their surrogates have a right to refuse treatment, and this is independent of whether the decision is sensible to another party or not.

Overall, this document shows that patients, just like any other persons have the right to decide whether or not to receive treatment. This happens in all cases except in conditions where emergencies are involved.


BAILLIE, H., McGEEHAN, J., GARRETT, T., & GARRETT, R. (2013). HEALTH CARE ETHICS. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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