If the patient does not agree to the recommended procedure, or refuses the treatment, the dentist should make every reasonable effort to document that the patient understands the risks that may arise from such refusal. This is the concept of informed refusal.
Numerous malpractice lawsuits have been filed against health professionals by patients who claimed that, upon suffering a serious injury after refusing care, they did not fully understand the potential consequences of such refusal. Coupled with this allegation is the assertion by the patient that he or she would have consented to the procedure or treatment if only the risks of refusal had been properly and completely explained by the health professional.
Documenting that the patient refused care after being informed of the risks requires efforts beyond the normal informed consent documentation.
Although following these risk-management guidelines will not guarantee that you will never be sued for failure to properly inform a patient of the risks of refusing care, the quality and quantity of your documentation will strengthen your defense of these claims.
Tips on Handling the Informed Refusal Process