NY: Patients May Not Refuse Medical Care

Brian Persaud went into the hospital to get eight stitches on his head. He got quite a bit more. A NY Supreme Court jury found he was not wronged:

Persaud, 38, was injured while working at a construction site in midtown Manhattan on May 20, 2003. Persaud received eight stitches for a cut over his eyebrow at the hospital, but denied emergency room staffers’ request to examine his rectum, the lawyer said. He said doctors told Persaud the exam could help determine whether the accident caused spinal damage.

When Persaud resisted, staffers held him down while he begged, “Please don’t do that,” Marrone said. Persaud hit a doctor while flailing around, so the staffers gave him a powerful sedative and performed the rectal exam, he said.

Hospital witnesses testified at trial that the exam was never completed, but Marrone said that when Persaud woke up he was handcuffed to a bed and had an oxygen tube down his throat and lubricant in his rectum.

There are at least three issues here:

  • First, the right to refuse medical care. If Persaud just wanted stitches and that’s it, it’s his call. If he makes a bad call, it’s his fault, but he has the right to decide his own destiny, otherwise he doesn’t have personal freedom.

  • Second, this is going to scare lots of people away from seeking medical care. If you need stitches and fear getting an anal probe for it, you’re probably just going to SuperGlue it and deal without antibiotics, even if that’s not the best course of action.

  • Third, what could the jury have been thinking? Even if there’s a statute on the books in NY that would side with the doctors – that’s what we have jury nullification for. I’d love to hear from a juror on this.