The Emergency Exception
The emergency exception to the need for consent is based on the premise that a reasonable person would not want to be denied necessary medical care because he or she happened to be too incapacitated to consent to the treatment.
The major abuse of the emergency exception to the need for consent is its use as a justification for treating chronically ill patients who are incompetent to consent to medical care. The emergency exception is just that—an exception limited to emergencies. These may be in the emergency room, or they may involve patients in the hospital who have an unexpected event such as a cardiac arrest. The emergency exception does not apply to an incompetent patient in need of routine care. Chronically incompetent patients should have a legal guardian.