Alcohol-intoxicated patients at admission room – analysis of legal aspects of rendered medical services

Adam Dziki 3,  
Department of Medical Law, Chair of Humanities, Medical University, Lodz, Poland
Department of Medical Informatics and Statistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Medical University, Lodz, Poland
Department of General and Colorectal Surgery, Medical University, Lodz, Poland
II Chair and Department of General Surgery, Gastroenterological and Alimentary Oncological Surgery, Medical University, Lublin, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2012;19(4):701–706
Current legal regulations do not explicitly state whether the doctor should or should not ignore the patient’s refusal to be provided with medical services when such refusal is given by the patients who is temporarily unable to take conscious decisions. The fact that there is no clear jurisdiction over the issue makes the relation between doctor and patient legally complicated. The doctor has no doubts whether he/she should or should not initiate the medical procedure when the patient clearly expresses the declaration of will, in which either refusal or consent is given to be provided with medical care. However, the patient remaining under the influence of alcohol, i.e. a substance which to some or great extent impairs cognitive functions, rational thinking, and the ability to evaluate incoming information. Alcohol makes the patient unable to interpret the information given by the doctor. Thus, the patient’s consent or refusal to be provided with medical care is lacking in the needed elements of “informing” and “conscious declaration of will”, which are considered by doctors and lawyers to be absolutely necessary to make such will valid. There are no clear, unambiguous regulations explaining how the doctor should behave in such cases. The authors of the presented study state that it is highly important to determine whether the intoxicated patient is able to understand the incoming information, evaluate it, make a conscious decision and finally, express an explicit (and therefore binding) refusal to accept recommended medical services. In the opinion of the authors, while dealing with such patients, the doctor should bear in mind the patient’s right to make autonomous decisions, but that it is also the doctor’s duty to provide the patient with medical services.