Can a doctor fire a patient?

November 27, 2018 - 3:30 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — You think you hate getting medical treatment? What if the doctor refuses to give it?  

State health officials in Rockland County, New York, are dealing with the biggest measles outbreak in 20 years. Measles had been very nearly wiped out in the U.S., and it is preventable by vaccine. 
But with the growth of the anti-vaccine movement, outbreaks of previously controlled diseases like measles and mumps have begun to spread again. And out of frustration and concern for patients who come into contact with the unvaccinated, many pediatricians have begun to refuse to treat patients who refuse vaccines.  

But aren't doctors obligated by law or medical ethics to treat sick patients? The answer is that if you're having a medical emergency, a hospital is legally obligated to make sure you are medically stable before giving you the boot. 

As for doctors, once a doctor-patient relationship has been established, the doctor has to follow a process in order to fire a patient, including notifying the patient, providing care until a new doctor is found, and helping to find you a new doctor. 

That said, no doctor has to take on a new patient, so while patients are within their rights to refuse a vaccine, doctors are within theirs to say, "You can get your body — and for that matter, your head — examined elsewhere."