Patients who refuse treatment

24. You must respect a competent patient’s decision to refuse an investigation or treatment, even if you think their decision is wrong or irrational.14 You may advise the patient of your clinical opinion, but you must not put pressure on them to accept your advice.15 You must be careful that your words and actions do not imply judgement of the patient or their beliefs and values.

25. If you have a conscientious objection – for example, to the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment – you should follow the guidance in paragraphs 79–80 and 47–48 of our guidance Treatment and care towards the end of life: good practice in decision making.

26. If the patient is a child who lacks capacity to make a decision, and both parents16 refuse treatment on the grounds of their religious or moral beliefs, you must discuss their concerns and look for treatment options that will accommodate their beliefs. You should involve the child in a way appropriate to their age and maturity. If following a discussion of all the options you cannot reach an agreement, and treatment is essential to preserve life or prevent serious deterioration in health, you should seek advice on approaching the court.

27. In an emergency, you can provide treatment that is immediately necessary to save life or prevent deterioration in health without consent or, in exceptional circumstances, against the wishes of a person with parental responsibility.

28. For further advice on consent to treatment involving children and adults, including adults who lack capacity, see our guidance Consent: patients and doctors making decisions together and 0–18 years: guidance for all doctors.

Endnotes for Personal beliefs and medical practice