Whether a person is competent or otherwise is decided by a court of law. When a patient has been judged by the physicians and the court of law to be competent enough to make his own decisions, then he has all legal and ethical rights to refuse his treatment, partially or wholly (WebMD Inc., 2010). This means that the patient will be responsible for any bad consequences that happen such as worsening of disease or even demise. If the person dies, it will not be considered as attempted suicide or doctor-assisted suicide; instead, the demise will be considered to be the result of a legally competent refusal of treatment.
A patient may want to refuse treatment because of his unwillingness to suffer anymore. He may start preferring death to life because of being tired of his illness or heavy medications and treatments which make him wish not to be saved anymore. However, there are certain legal and ethical considerations to it that need to be analyzed before the patient’s decision is finalized.
“the 8th amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment; the 1st amendment’s protection of free speech (freedom of thought / ideas); the 1st amendment’s protection of freedom of religion; the more broadly interpreted right to privacy; and, the 14th amendment’s protection of liberty (the right to be free from unjustified intrusions on personal security)”.
These protections apply on persons who have reached a certain maturity age. For example, laws are to be applied on minors (young adults) who are independent, pregnant, married, live alone, or in military, are regarded as emancipated by the court.
When patient refuses treatment, then to save the physician from undergoing any legal liability or other inconveniences regarding not proving the treatment, the patient will have to sign refusal of care Against Medical Advice (AMA) form or request a Release at Scene (RAS) form. This is the major difference treatment