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Ethics Committee in favour of patient’s right to refuse treatment

On 9 June the national consultative committee on ethics (CCNE) presented an opinion on “the refusal of treatment and the autonomy of the person”. The CCNE has formulated a number of recommendations seeking to reconcile new rights for patients with the duties of doctors. It insists on the absolute need “to respect individual liberty” and states “the refusal of treatment clearly expressed by a person over the age of majority who still has control of their faculties has to be respected, even if it leads to death”.

In France the situation was advanced by the law of March 2002, which provides that “No medical act nor any treatment may be carried out without express consent of the person and that consent may be withdrawn at any time”. The CCNE emphasises that recent developments have given greater weight to the wishes of the sick, even where these oppose the medical view. It recalls that that until recently both jurisprudence and medico-legal literature had overruled the main cases of refusal of treatment.

But the doctor can also refuse to administer treatment: “In the context of medical economy, a doctor may be asked to carry out measures which he regards as useless or needlessly expensive. The ethical question is not the refusal of treatment on grounds of cost but not to dismiss the economic issue when facing the choice and finality of treatment”.

[Taken from article in Le Monde ]