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Dermatology Online Journal

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What are the ethical and legal considerations when your patient refuses the standard of care?


In medical practice, physicians are sometimes faced with patients who reject the gold-standard treatment for a condition. In this hypothetical clinical scenario, we present the case of a patient who refuses Mohs micrographic surgery for management of infiltrative basal cell carcinoma and instead requests off-label therapy with imiquimod. We discuss the treating dermatologist's options in response to this patient's request and the ethical considerations surrounding the case. We conclude that the physician has the right to refuse to provide treatment that deviates from standard clinical practice but that the physician should counsel the patient on all options, provide thorough informed consent, offer contact information for the patient to pursue a second opinion or a radiation oncology referral, and ensure safe transfer of care should the patient desire treatment with a different provider.

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