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Emergency practitioners must understand patients’ rights regarding informed consent. Rapid diagnosis and treatment can be lifesaving, and any delay in obtaining consent may have devastating consequences to the patient. Emergency physicians have an obligation to make decisive and rapid treatment decisions. In addition, they must know when patients can refuse treatment and when consent is not needed. Finally, patients can and do refuse treatments that may be lifesaving. The emergency physician must ensure that the patient is competent to make these decisions. A mistake will bring the wrath of disgruntled family members who undoubtedly will bring suit for negligence. This issue of <i> ED Legal Letter</i> illustrates the issues that emergency physicians encounter regarding informed consent and the exceptions that may apply.

Informed consent: Know rules and exceptions, when they apply