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Can a Doctor Kick a Patient Out of His Practice?

October 3, 2013

Can My Doctor Kick Me Out of His Practice?

 

Can My Doctor Fire Me?I get a lot of post ideas from Amy, she handles many of our client intakes.  Amy came to see me yesterday and she said, “you know, a question I get a lot is whether a doctor can kick a patient out of his practice.”  So, today, I am answering that question.

The answer, to whether a doctor can “fire” you, for the most part, is yes. A doctor may choose to end your care if he desires to do so. Doctors, generally, are not required to take on a patient.  And if a doctor no longer wants to  treat a patient, he doesn’t have to. However, the doctor may not leave the patient in a dangerous position or commit medical malpractice when he ends the care.

Why Do Doctors “Fire” Patients?

There are a number of reasons a doctor might decide to stop treating a patient. Common reasons include:

  • Constantly showing up late, or missing and cancelling appointments
  • Being mean or rude to the doctor or his staff
  • Drug seeking behavior (asking for narcotics when you don’t need them)
  • Being unreasonable in your expectations from the doctor
  • Being especially litigious (suing a lot of doctors) especially in the case of frivolous or inappropriate lawsuits
  • Changing insurance to a policy the doctor does not accept
  • The doctor is unable to assist the patient and thinks he would be better off finding a different doctor

Limits on Kicking a Patient Out

While a doctor can choose to dismiss a patient, there are some exceptions.

  • Timing – When a patient is in a dangerous place in terms of his illness or treatment, the doctor must wait until the dangerous phase has passed or care has been transferred. For example, a doctor should not dismiss a patient immediately after surgery.
  • Lack of access to other care – In some rural locations of Pennsylvania there aren’t that many doctors within a reasonable distance.  Also, in some specialties, it can be hard to find a new doctor quickly. If the patient is at risk or needs immediate care, the doctor should treat the patient until he can find a new doctor.
  • Insurance or health plan issues – If it will take time for a patient to get to see a new doctor because of his insurance or health plan, the current doctor should assist with the transfer process as necessary. He should also continue treating as needed for the patient’s safety.
  • AIDS/HIV – A doctor is not allowed to stop seeing a patient because hehas AIDS/HIV.
  • Race – A doctor may not discriminate based on race or for other illegal reasons.

If a doctor is unsure whether he may appropriately end a relationship with a patient, his best bet is to speak with a lawyer about the issue.  The same is true for a patient, if he believes his doctor has injured him by ending the relationship or believes the doctor ended the relationship for an illegal reason (AIDS/HIV or race, for example.)

Injured Because a Doctor “Fired” You?

Please remember. A doctor has not committed malpractice or done something illegal simply because he kicked you out of his practice.  Doctors have that right. The doctor must have violated the standard of care and seriously injured you due to kicking you out, for there to be a potential malpractice claim. For more information about medical malpractice, please see our article, Medical Negligence Explained.

If you believe your doctor has committed medical malpractice by firing you as a patient or that he has kicked you out of his practice for an illegal reason, please contact one of our Philadelphia, medical malpractice lawyers. The call is free.

 

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