Problems in qualifying health services provided by physicians and informed consent to treatment
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Chair of Public Health, Hygiene and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland
Department of Oncology and Gynecologic Oncology, ZOZ MSWiA with the Warmia and Mazury Oncology Center in Olsztyn, Poland
Chair of Criminal Law, Faculty of Law and Administration, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland
Submission date: 2010-05-07
Acceptance date: 2010-06-28
Online publication date: 2012-12-04
Publication date: 2023-03-13
Corresponding author
Leszek Frąckowiak
Zakład Opieki Zdrowotnej MSWiA, al. Wojska Polskiego 37, 10-228 Olsztyn, Poland; e-mail:
Pol. Ann. Med. 2010;17(1):149-157
Introduction. Under the provisions of the Act on Patients’ Rights and Patients’ Rights Ombudsman of November 6, 2008, the patient has the right to receive health services adequate to current medical knowledge. The patient has the full right to give consent to medical procedures performed on him/her or to refuse such consent. By this consent, the patient legitimizes in a legal sense the physician’s interference with a patient’s fundamental rights and freedoms. Acting without consent is usually illegal, thus the physician risks disciplinary action, civil and criminal liabilities. Aim. The aim of this work was to provide guidelines to assist in distinguishing between concepts concerning health services provided by physicians. Discussion. In practice, the most significant difficulties arise from fluid boundaries between two legal terms “surgical procedure or therapeutic method posing an increased risk to life and health” and these same activities “posing the risk of causing loss of life, grievous bodily harm and grievous health disorder”. In the former case, the physician must obtain informed consent to treatment, whereas in the latter case the consent is not required for providing health services. On the basis of legal literature overview, legal acts and Polish courts judicature, the article presents a comparative legal classification stemming from the provisions of the Criminal Code of 1997, which contains the notion of causing “health disorder”, along with the recent judicature of the Supreme Court. This is an attempt to make up for the lack of statutory definitions of particular elements that contribute collectively to the concept of health services. Conclusions. The classification discussed poses interpretative problems, although the knowledge of the statutory division of health services and correct differentiation between terminological concepts are essential for physicians because they enable a correct assessment with regards to the informed consent required in a particular situation and determining those individuals authorized to providing such consent. Physicians are legally obliged to qualify their actions according to the abovementioned classification each time they provide health services, which is difficult for them to cope with. Medical law has not kept pace with constant developments in medicine; however, a complex regulation addressing this matter seems to be impossible to arrive at presently.
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