What are my obligations to my incarcerated patient?

Cleve Clin J Med. 2023 Jan 3;90(1):18-21. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.90a.22003.


A 45-year-old man is brought to the emergency department with a self-inflicted forearm laceration. He is incarcerated and under the care of the Department of Corrections (DOC). The patient has a history of self-harm and iron deficiency anemia, and his baseline hemoglobin is 6 to 7 g/dL (reference range 13.0–17.0). On presentation to the emergency department, his vital signs are stable, he has no symptoms of blood loss, and his hemoglobin is 5.2 g/dL. A DOC representative presents a court order that authorizes a blood transfusion when the hemoglobin level is less than 6 g/dL, but the patient refuses the transfusion. As his caregiver, am I obligated to follow the court order against the patient’s wishes?

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Prisoners*