Against All Advice: An Analysis of Out-of-Hospital Refusals of Care

ArticleinAnnals of Emergency Medicine 42(5):689-96 · December 2003with4 Reads
Impact Factor: 4.68 · DOI: 10.1016/S0196064403005249 · Source: PubMed


    We examine the characteristics of patients involved in out-of-hospital emergency medical services (EMS) incidents that result in refusal of care and determine the rates of subsequent EMS, emergency department (ED), and inpatient care, as well as death within 7 days.
    Utah statewide EMS data identifying refusals of care were probabilistically linked to Utah statewide ED, inpatient, and death certificate data within 7 days of the initial EMS refusals for 1996 to 1998. Refusals were defined as incidents in which field treatment or transport was refused and did not include incidents in which EMS providers deemed care or transport unnecessary.
    Of 277244 EMS incidents, 14109 (5.1%) resulted in refusals of care. For all age groups, motor vehicle crash dispatches resulted in the highest rate of refusal of care, ranging from 8.0% to 11.7%. Slightly more than 3% of patients involved in a refusal of care incident had a subsequent EMS dispatch within a week. One fifth of the patients involved in EMS refusals of care had a subsequent ED visit. Less than 2% of the EMS refusal patients were hospitalized; hospitalization was highest among children younger than 3 years and adults older than 64 years. Twenty-five adults died within a week of refusing EMS care, of whom 19 (76.0%) were older than 64 years.
    Refusal of care incidents are a small segment of all EMS incidents. They arise from a variety of situations, and the risk for missed intervention may be minimal.