A patient's right to the refusal of care is founded upon one of the basic ethical principles of medicine, autonomy. This principle states that every person has the right to make informed decisions about their healthcare and that healthcare professionals should not impose their own beliefs or decisions upon their patients. Autonomy does not exist alone; there are other medical principles that help guide care. Beneficence requires that actions taken by healthcare professionals be for the benefit of the patient. Non-maleficence is the principle that embodies "do no harm," requiring health care providers to take steps to ensure their patients and society at large are not harmed by their actions. Justice requires that the benefits and risks associated with healthcare should be distributed equally amongst the population without bias. Each principle has a role when navigating the difficult situations where patients or their family members may be refusing medical assistance.
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