Douglas P. Olsen, PhD, RN, associate professor, College of Nursing, Michigan State University, writes about ethical issues for AJN.
On July 26, Alex Wubbels, charge nurse at the University of Utah Hospital burn unit in Salt Lake City, showed extraordinary ethical courage that will serve as an example for my students for a long time to come. She refused a police detective access to an unconscious patient so he could draw a blood sample, citing clear violation of hospital regulations, which require patient consent, a court warrant, or that the patient is under arrest. After a short, tense discussion, she was roughly handcuffed and put in a police vehicle by the detective. I recommend watching the video of the incident, although parts of it are quite disturbing. According to various analyses reported in the media, the hospital and Wubbels were legally correct and the detective’s view of her legal obligations was wrong.
All treatment, even the most minimally invasive, can be refused by a patient and therefore requires the patient’s informed consent. There are limited exceptions under which treatment can be provided without patient consent. These include:
- When the patient lacks decision-making capacity
- When the patient is dangerous and has a mental disorder
- An emergency […]