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Workers Compensation Medical Treatment Refusal

An injured worker can refuse medical treatment at any time. The question becomes, are workers compensation benefits in Wisconsin still payable if the worker refuses treatment? This rarely comes up, but generally no compensation is payable for death or disability caused by an employee's unreasonable refusal or neglect to submit to or follow competent and reasonable medical or surgical treatment. Wis. Stat. Sec. 102.42(6). The test of what is reasonable in refusing treatment is objective rather than subjective. See Braun v. Indus. Comm'n, 36 Wis. 2d 48 (1967). The workers compensation Department has not considered a refusal to submit to surgery, which involves a risk to life or limb as unreasonable. A back surgery and probably all surgery requiring general anesthesia is per se not unreasonable to decline. See also Lesh v. Ill. Steel Co., 163 Wis. 124 (1916). "Based on longstanding department policy, an employee's refusal to submit to an invasive procedure that is hazardous to life or limb is NOT an unreasonable refusal under [Wis. Stat. §] 102.42(6)." Also, if the employer or workers comp insurer is refusing to pay for the surgery or treatment, it cannot raise the defense of a worker's unreasonable decision to refuse treatment. Klein Industrial Salvage v. DILHR, 80 Wis. 2d 457 (1977).

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