The difficult patient

Emerg Med Clin North Am. 1999 May;17(2):353-70, x. doi: 10.1016/s0733-8627(05)70064-x.


The term difficult patient refers to a group of patients with whom a physician may have trouble forming a normal therapeutic relationship. The care of these patients can present many ethical dilemmas, ranging from issues of patient autonomy to questions of appropriate use of resources, which the emergency physician must be prepared to handle. Encounters with these patients also challenge physicians to explore and cultivate many of the character traits and virtues necessary to being a humane, caring, and ethical practitioner.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Machiavellianism
  • Male
  • Malingering / psychology
  • Malingering / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Treatment Refusal* / psychology
  • Violence / prevention & control
  • Violence / psychology