Can a Patient Refuse Home Health Care?

Author: Andrea Miller

Reviewed by: Brindusa Vanta

A patient can refuse home health care if they don’t want to receive available services. An individual has the right to say no to medical procedures, tests and treatments for any reason. However, if someone lacks the capacity to refuse care, some states allow health care providers to provide treatment that protects the person from harm. 

When Does a Patient Lack the Capacity to Refuse Care?

A patient lacks the capacity to refuse care if they display impaired decision-making. In this case, the individual doesn’t understand the need for care, the choice they’re making about care and the risks associated with that choice. Cognitive impairment, mental health issues and intoxication lead to lack of capacity in some cases. 

What Happens If Your Loved One Refuses Care?

If your loved one refuses care, the health care provider asks questions to evaluate their capacity to understand this decision. If they have capacity, the provider stops treatment as requested. If your family member lacks capacity in an emergency, the physician acts to save their life.

In a less urgent situation, the health care team asks a health care proxy, such as a family member, to decide on behalf of the patient. Consider helping your loved one establish a health care power of attorney, which lets a designated person make health care decisions if they become incapacitated. This legal document also allows the person to state the type of care they want to receive in this situation.

Who Needs a Health Care Power of Attorney?

All adults need a health care power of attorney to establish their wishes for care. This legal document takes effect if you’re unable to make or express these decisions. If you have a serious illness, consider creating a health care power of attorney right away. Discuss this document with your family members, so they understand the type of care you want in an emergency or end-of-life situation.