When patients behave badly: Consent, breach of the duty of care and the law

When patients behave badly: Consent, breach of the duty of care and the law
Perspective
Anne‐Maree Kelly, Tina Cockburn, Bill Madden
Emergency Medicine Australasia, 2 December 2020
Abstract
Patients who are abusive or aggressive in ED raise special clinical and legal challenges. These include what steps clinicians should take to exclude serious illness/injury as the cause of the behaviour and when investigations or treatments can be imposed on these patients without their consent. Using a case illustration, this paper discusses legal issues which arise in this context, including how the standard of care owed by clinicians is determined and what may constitute a breach of duty; such patients’ right to consent to (or decline) tests and treatment; and when clinicians may lawfully act without consent and/or control the patient’s behaviour.

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