After examining the 5e PHB on healing (pg 197) and perusing through various healing spells, I have found no reference to willingness as a required component for HP to be restored. The context for this question is a PC or NPC who, having been reduced to 0HP, wishes to die rather than be captured alive.

Can an unconscious player character or NPC reject healing from a potion? Please note that I am not referring to any form of resurrection, strictly to healing from potions.

Is there any core rule which states that the healee must 'opt in' to potion effects, or does RAW, by its silence on the matter, indicate that the unconscious PC/NPC in my case could be forced back to consciousness by the potion?


2 Answers 2


You cannot choose to abstain from a potion effect

Potion of Healing states:

You regain hit points when you drink this potion.

In that language, there is no choice. Just cause and effect. You drink the potion, you regain hitpoints.

If you had a choice about potion effects, then the Potion of Poison would hold no threat.

This concoction[potion of poison] looks, smells, and tastes like a potion of healing or other beneficial potion...If you drink it, you take 3d6 poison damage...

If you could choose not to accept a potion's effects, then you could drink a Potion of Poison thinking it's one of Healing and then opt out of the effect.

Inability to decide anything

It's also important to note that the character is currently unconscious. Even if choice was possible, the only way they could make it is if they were conscious. Since they aren't, there definitely isn't a way for them to decline (just like how they can't decline drinking the potion.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ In the absence of explicit rules text describing that healing is ever optional, I think this is solid reasoning \$\endgroup\$
    – frog
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ In theory, it might be possible for a person to decline such a thing by unconscious reflex (though that would probably have to be a class feature). \$\endgroup\$
    – Brilliand
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Brilliand if we think about it from a real life perspective, you'd almost always choke on a potion given to you while you're unconscious. Which would negate the helpful effect of the healing potion being administered by a friend (at least somewhat). I would think, if you allow characters to not choke when it's a good thing, you'd have to not allow characters to choke when it's unappreciated. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 21:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KristenHammack I would think the action of "administering the potion" involves using the proper techniques to cause an unconscious person to safely drink the potion. Like... elevating the head, massaging the throat, and whatnot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brilliand
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KristenHammack I totally get what you're saying, but 5e isn't a simulationist RPG and we just go by the rules (that, and well...magic...makes this hard to be simulationist with.) But it sounds like you may have an opposing viewpoing for this question. That's the best spot to present your argument - and not in the comments section here :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 20:17

If you could opt out of a healing potion's positive effects, what's to stop you from opting out of a poison's negative effects? Potions do exactly what they're intended to do. Same could be said for healing spells: you can no more deny the effects of a healing spell cast upon you than you can a fireball cast at you. If it hits, it lands.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth noting that I'm not even sure how an unconscious person can actually choose anything. Even if they did have a choice how could they possible make it while passed out? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose I think as per...some edition, some specific magic's, specific wording, an unconscious person could decide to opt out of the effect. Still, that was explicitly for that spell, in that edition. It was something to do (IIRC) with the spell affecting their soul, so you do get a choice then. But I'd agree that when a conscious choice (as opposed to "soul" or whatever) is involved, an unconscious person would by definition not be able to make it. Though I can see a possibility for a Fortitude check to reject a foreign substance by reflexively cough/choke instead of gulping it. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 8:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VLAZ you're thinking of some resurrection spells which require the soul to be willing I think. Obviously that doesn't apply here as you point out. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 11:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose yeah, probably. At an rate, I do agree with you. This is not really a spell to begin with. Secondly, a choice implies that it has to be consciously made, which somebody who is unconscious cannot do. So, like you I am not quite sure how the question came about as neither RAW, nor RAI, nor common sense would imply you have the option to refuse the potion and its effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:15

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