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American Public Health Association




Although the right to refuse medical treatment is universally recognized as a fundamental principle of liberty, this right is not always honored. A refusal can be thwarted either because a patient is unable to competently communicate or because providers insist on continuing treatment. To help enhance the patient's right to refuse treatment, many states have enacted so-called "living will" or "natural death" statutes. We believe the time has come to move beyond these current legislative models, and we therefore propose a Model Act that clearly enunciates an individual's right to refuse treatment, does not limit its exercise to the terminally ill or to heroic measures, and provides a mechanism by which individuals can set forth their wishes in advance and designate another person to enforce them.

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