Do patients refusing transport remember descriptions of risks after initial advanced life support assessment?

Terri A. Schmidt, N. Clay Mann, Carol S. Federiuk, Regina R. Atcheson, David Fuller, Michael J. Christie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine patient recall and understanding of instructions given to patients who refuse transport after initial paramedic assessment and medical treatment. Methods: Following patient consent, a phone interview was completed for consecutive persons living in a large urban area for whom 9-1- 1 was contacted but who subsequently refused transport after advanced life support (ALS) assessment. Subjects were asked about their recall of explained risks and benefits of transport, their understanding of those risks at the time of assessment, and subsequent use of medical care, including hospitalization. Results: From October 1, 1996, to February 23, 1997, 324 people refused transport after ALS arrival. Sixty-eight people could not be contacted, providing a response rate of 79% (256/324). Six percent were subsequently admitted to the hospital for the same problem and an additional 59% sought care from a health care provider (66 ED visits, 63 personal physician, 16 urgent care, 5 other). There were no unexpected deaths. Ninety (35%) respondents were still experiencing symptoms at the time of phone contact. Despite the routine practice of providing a verbal explanation of risks and written instructions, only 141 (55%) recalled receiving written instructions and 56 (22%) recalled an explanation of risks. Twenty-six percent believed they did not fully understand their conditions or circumstances surrounding the 9-1-1 call when they refused transport and 18% would now take an ambulance if the same incident were to recur. Conclusion: A substantial proportion of patients refusing transport do not recall receiving verbal or written instructions and would reconsider their transport decision, raising doubts about people's ability to make informed decisions at a time of great vulnerability. The majority of patients accessed health care after refusing transport and 6% were hospitalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-801
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • EMS
  • Emergency medical services
  • Paramedic
  • Patient recall
  • Refusal
  • Risks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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