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Personality disorder and competence to refuse treatment
  1. E Winburn1,
  2. R Mullen2
  1. 1
    Otago District Health Board, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2
    Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Dr E Winburn, Otago District Health Board, Private Bag 1921, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand; liz.winburn{at}


The traditional view that having a personality disorder, unlike other mental disorders, is not usually reason enough to consider a person incompetent to make healthcare decisions is challenged. The example of a case in which a woman was treated for a physical disorder without her consent illustrates that personality disorder can render a person incompetent to refuse essential treatment, particularly because it can affect the doctor–patient relationship within which consent is given.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.