The patient suffering from acute respiratory failure COVID-19 related who refuses medical treatment: an emblematic case

The patient suffering from acute respiratory failure COVID-19 related who refuses medical treatment: an emblematic case
Francesca Maghin, Massimo Salvetti, Maria Lorenza Muiesan, Adelaide Conti
Internal and Emergency Medicine, 2 July 2022
Open Access
Respiratory failure related to COVID-19 may evolve into acute respiratory distress syndrome, which may require invasive treatment. Through the analysis of a concrete clinical case, we want to clarify how to manage patients suffering from serious acute pathologies, which require timely intervention, even invasive, but refuse medical treatment. The Italian law 219/2017 states strongly the freedom of the patient to choose, independently whether to start or stop at any time any type of medical treatment through their informed consent. The law, of course, addresses in several parts the problem of the refusal of the subject to certain choices. The law also provides that if the patient refuses therapies or interventions, putting his life at risk, the doctors need to engage in further communication with the support of other professionals, informing the patient of the consequences, promoting every support action, and involving family members. Judgment on the level of impaired capacity, which makes a patient incompetent to make therapeutic decisions, should ideally reflect the balance between respecting patient autonomy and protecting the patient from the consequences of a wrong decision. For the physicians, it is a matter of balancing the need to save the life of the person, or at least to avoid the establishment of permanent damage, with the subject itself expressly stated, including an explicit refusal to carry out maneuvers or therapies or interventions when it is in danger of life, even if such treatments could save it.

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