Respecting the decisions of individuals

Becoming a physiotherapist isn’t just rainbows and flowers. Amongst the roses, bear plenty thorns, which can cause damage. The social interaction between myself and most patients really connect on the same level, even when language barriers are present, we are able to maintain a great relationship. A great big smile stemming both from the patients as well as me, is the rewarding aspect after each treatment session. professional-patient interaction on my part is always one of respect and professionalism, but misunderstanding of human rights do happen, and conflicts do arise.

Unfortunately in the world we live in today, we put in very difficult and life threatening situations that patients are dealing with. I attend my appointments with great intent to work with my patient to get them as quickly as possible to full recovery. But sometimes it really is not that easy to do. Throught my years of studying and practising physiotherapy during clinical practise it has all been a learning experience, which continues every day. Yet some days take the cake.

Multiple times I has experienced patients who refuse my attention and treatment. Whether they are too lazy, not in the mood, in too much pain or just do not care about life or any person around them anymore, really upsets me. It is not for me too judge I know, but I feel it is my need, and requirement to force treatment on them to make them better. Several times I have come into conflict with patients who have ultimately got aggressive, swore and/or just completely ignored me after my continues effort to persuade them otherwise. This is common amongst patients who are near death, very weak or maybe emotionally or religiously unstable enough to get the motivational spirit to fight death.

Conflict is something I do not deal well with as I am a person who hardly finds myself in these sort of situations. I have strong beliefs to help each person in need of medical attention to my best ability. When patients refuse treatment and begin to attack me after several minutes of convincing my patient to understand the consequences of being negligent, it severely hurts my self esteem. Ultimately a very sincere gesture and willingness to help patients can be twisted and manipulated to make me seem like the bad person in the situation.

Managing conflict is time-consuming but necessary when arising disagreements or controversies, possibly leading to litigation or violence. Conflict will have adverse effects on productivity, morale, and patient care (Ramsay, 2001).

I need to find understanding. I need to find closure. I need to find a conclusion. Clinicians and other physiotherapists continue to express the same pattern of tone. The consistent ” if they refuse treatment, it is there right to, so save yourself the argument and move on”. I can clearly see the concept of human rights and the patients choice ultimately needed to be obeyed and respected. Even thou I know the detrimental effects for the patient and shear heart break for myself, I will need to accept.

It is often difficult for members of the health care team to accept patients’ decisions that depart from a professional’s recommended decision, which is intended to benefit the patient. This is especially difficult to accept, as they appear to be bad and irrational from the medical perspective. (Carrese, 2006)


Carrese, J.A. (2006). Refusal of care: patients’ well being and physicians’ ethical obligations. American medical association. 296(6): 691-695

Ramsay, R.A.E. (2001). Conflict in the health care workplace. Baylor university medical center proceedings. 14(2): 138-139


One Reply to “Respecting the decisions of individuals”

  1. I had a similar experience last year with one of my patients, he had an ICD inserted and utterly refused treatment. I would go to his bed every day (morning and afternoon) to try an convince him to comply but my attempts were in vain. Accepting their decision was difficult for me too because seeing a patient deteriorating when you know you can be of assistance is a feeling i dont wish upon anyone!
    Anyway, this continued for two weeks into my block ,i spoke to the doctor, to my clinicians but no one could get through to him and in the end he had to go in for surgery. I felt bad because i was the physiotherapist on the case but i was assured and reassured that these things happen, we can try to save everyone but in reality not everyone will want our help, even if they know they need it.
    On the bright side there are those patients who’s face light up when we enter the room and who is excited about their rehab and how far they are getting with our help and to me seeing my patients improve is one of the best feelings in the world!
    so chin up, we do make a difference in the lives of many.
    Thank you for sharing this.


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