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Making decisions and talking about your treatment

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If you’re an adult with mental capacity you have the legal right to refuse any medical treatment, even treatment that keeps you alive. You don’t have to justify your decision, but you do have to show that you have the ‘capacity’ to make it.

You make the final decision about what treatment you want from the options offered to you by your doctor. To help you decide which treatment is right for you, your doctor:

  • should explain to you in clear language what your diagnosis means and what your treatment options are
  • should answer any questions you have about your condition, treatment or life expectancy
  • should explain the pros and cons of each treatment and give you the time, information and support needed so that you can make your decision
  • can recommend a treatment to you, but shouldn’t pressure you to accept it

You can then make a decision based on your personal views and beliefs. It is totally up to you which treatment you choose. You can choose not to have any treatment at all.

Sometimes information about your health can be hard to take in, so your doctor should repeat information or try to explain it in a different way if you don’t understand something they have said.

If you need support or help asking questions, you can have a friend or family member with you during any conversations with your healthcare team.

You may not want your doctor to give you all the information about your illness and life expectancy in one go. It’s important to let them know how much information you want, and tell them if you want to go over anything again.

The NHS Constitution for England says that you have the right to be involved in discussions and decisions about your health and care, and to be given information to help you to do this.

If you find it difficult to talk to your doctor, you can speak to other professionals involved in your care, such as nurses, social workers or a different doctor.