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Minerva Medicolegale 2020 December;140(4):69-75

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4849.21.01796-X

Copyright © 2021 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

The communication of risks in the decision-making process: when fear of the risk can lead to refusing treatment

Paola DELBON 1 , Lorenzo AGONI 2

1 Department of Surgery, Radiology and Public Health, Public Health and Humanities Section, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy; 2 Unit of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Fondazione Poliambulanza Hospital, Brescia, Italy



Consent is an essential requirement for any medical treatment: if patient consent is to be an expression of the person’s self-determination and an essential prerequisite of the lawfulness of the medical act, it must first of all be informed consent, or consent expressed on the basis of adequate information offered by the doctor to the patient. It is therefore essential that we identify which risks of medical treatment fall under the doctor’s duty to disclose, insofar as they are relevant to the patient’s decision or may influence the decision-making process and therefore the freedom of choice of the person concerned. The relationship of care and trust between patient and doctor is a combination of the patient’s decision-making autonomy and the professional autonomy of the doctor: the healthcare professional is obliged to respect the choices of the patient, but at the same time to act with responsibility and autonomy or offer the patient complete and truthful information, including in relation to risks that, once learned by the patient, could affect the decision-making process even in terms of refusing an “objectively” appropriate treatment.


KEY WORDS: Communication; Informed consent; Risk; Personal autonomy

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