Questions in question: A patient refuses treatment because of addiction or fear. How do medical and legal professionals assess their decision-making capacity?

I wonder if this question is on-topic on this site or not? Since I think perhaps the question is (a little) more about legal than medical.

2 Answers 2


Interesting question. Stripping out the "ethics" component of the question, on its face it looks on-topic and similar to this recently accepted question, "How can you tell whether somebody is “competent” to agree with you or your terms?".

I'd recommend posting a variant that asks only the legal question – i.e., nothing about ethics or psychology. Worst case is the question gets closed.

  • I think the current question is already suitable to be a legal question? Do you think so?
    – Ooker
    Dec 23, 2020 at 10:42
  • 1
    @Ooker Yes, but it needs to be properly edited/re-written for Law.SE.
    – feetwet Mod
    Dec 23, 2020 at 14:25
  • I mean, I am not sure what else should be edited or rewritten. The only place the question mention about "ethics" or "psychology" is the note, which is meant to emphasize that the question is not a psychological one. I can replace the "ethics" with "legal" and all is done.
    – Ooker
    Dec 23, 2020 at 14:36
  • @Ooker Others might edit it for you, but I see a subquestion like, "How do addiction and fear affect patent's decision-making capacity?" as a question of psychology. The question title asks (et. al.) how medical professionals assess something: Law.SE is about how the law assesses something.
    – feetwet Mod
    Dec 23, 2020 at 14:44
  • wow, you click on the revision history to know that old title? Yes the title include medical part, I can remove it.
    – Ooker
    Dec 23, 2020 at 15:52

In my opinion, the Med-Sci question is rather far from a legal question, but could inspire a legal question. A starting point would be the claim that "For an informed consent of a patient to be respected, the patient needs to be decisionally capacitated". There is a related legal question: can a medical professional disregard the directives of a patient if the professional believes that the patient is not "competent", and if so, how do you do that? The answer will be in part "you get a court order", but there are other answers for when the patient is physically incapable of responding.

I don't see any simple "editing" of that question that would yield a suitable legal question, but as I've hinted, you might use that question to inspire a ground-up purely legal question. You really should include a jurisdiction (and I doubt anyone here can handle Vietnam), because the answer would need specific statutory support. The two main circumstances would involve emergency treatment (when the patient cannot respond) and non-emergency involuntary treatment, where the patient is judged by the court to be incompetent to make decisions. Really, I think the emergency-treatment case is totally different and should be excluded.

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