Is treatment refusal considered medical malpractice?

medical malpractice iconOn a basic level, a medical doctor (also known as a physician) restores health through diagnosing and treating diseases.  In addition, they are trained to treat trauma injuries and physical, as well as mental impairment.

Doctors, who are in private practice, are able to freely choose who they treat, how much they charge, and the hours that they are open to the public.  The only time a doctor is required to treat a patient is when a life threatening matter is at hand.  A doctor/patient relationship is established when the physician actually “sees” the patient, and treatment is usually continued, until services are no longer needed, the patient dismisses the doctor or until the professional relationship is terminated based on mutual consent

During a non-emergency situation, a doctor may refuse to see a patient.  For example, a doctor may not take on a new patient in their private practice, if they feel that by doing so, it would compromise the integrity of the care of their current patients.

There are some other situations when a doctor may decide that they will no longer treat a patient.  Some of those reasons are listed below:

  1. They are unable to professionally help a patient, and by continuing treatment, professional boundaries maybe blurred.  In another words, if the person seeking treatment is a family member and the doctor would be unable to perform necessary treatment, without getting emotionally involved.  Professional boundaries are important, and are in place, for the safety of the patient, as well as the doctor.
  2. If medical care is voluntarily sought, and if treatment goals are not mutually consented upon by the doctor and patient, it is possible that is type of impasse could cause conflict, and the situation may become uncomfortable and frustrating.  This is one type of example that a medical relationship can be terminated.  (In cases like this, another doctor may be referred to the patient).
  3. If a patient’s medical insurance no longer covers a certain treatment, and payment cannot be covered by the individual, then care can be legally terminated by the doctor.

Although the policies are always changing, physicians are advised to proceed with caution, if making a decision to refuse to treat a particular patient. According to a Seaford medical malpractice attorney – Respectable conduct must be displayed at all times by the doctors, and communication as to why treatment cannot be performed or continued must be clearly understood by the patient.

A physician is not able to legally refuse to treat a patient based on religion, race, or gender.  If you have a strong belief, that a physician is refusing to see you based on the above mentioned, you are able to file a formal complaint with the discrimination board.

A patient, on the other hand, is able to terminate the relationship with their doctor for any reason, and without concern for legal consequences.