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Can a doctor deny treatment of a disabled person if they…

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Can a doctor deny...

Can a doctor deny treatment of a disabled person if they have a medical bill balance

Lawyer's Assistant: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

Washington

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been filed or reported?

Not yet

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

That I did not gethis denial from the doctor but his medical admin staff and the talk to me about my migraine history which seems to me was a misdiagnois

Submitted: 1 year ago.Category: Legal
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4/1/2017
Lawyer: RobertJDFL, Attorney replied 1 year ago
RobertJDFL
RobertJDFL, Attorney
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Satisfied Customers: 15,343
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Thank you for using Just Answer. I am a licensed attorney and look forward to helping you. I am reviewing your question and will reply back shortly.

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Lawyer: RobertJDFL, Attorney replied 1 year ago

Good afternoon,

As a general rule, a doctor may terminate the doctor-patient relationship and refuse to provide future services for reasons including non-payment of a debt as long as termination of the relationship is accomplished correctly. A doctor terminating the doctor-patient relationship without a plan of care for the future can have legal and ethical repercussions including charges of abandonment if not done correctly.

In Washington the general rule for terminating the doctor-patient relationship was set out by the Washington Supreme court in 1942:

It is the general rule that when a physician undertakes to treat a patient, it is his duty to continue to devote his best attention to the case until either medical attention is no longer needed, he is discharged by the patient, or he has given the patient reasonable notice of his intention to cease to treat the patient, so that another physician may be obtained.

Gray v. Davidson, 15 Wash.2d 257, 266-67 (1942).

As a result, under Washington law, a doctor must continue to provide services, even if a past due bill is not paid, unless/until:

  • The doctor provides notice of the intent to withdraw/terminate services that gives the patient sufficient time to find another doctor to continue treatment/services. (Thirty days written notice seems to be the normal approach.)
  • The doctor did not initially agree to provide continued or follow up treatment, i.e., the doctor only agreed to treat the patient once or at a certain time or place.
  • The patient’s condition does not require continued care
  • The patient terminates the relationship (oral or written notice will work)

As an aside, it is worth noting that the American Medical Association (AMA) is of the same opinion on this subject. The AMA FAQ on this question states the following:

Can my physician refuse to see me because of an unpaid bill?

The general AMA policy on billing is Opinion 6.05, “Fees for Medical Services.” This Opinion does not specifically address whether a physician might refuse to see a patient due to an unpaid bill. However, Opinion 8.11, “Neglect of Patient” states, “Once having undertaken a case, the physician should not neglect the patient.” Refusing to see a patient might be considered neglect, unless the physician appropriately terminated the patient-physician relationship. Opinion 8.115, “Termination of the Patient-Physician Relationship” states that the physician should provide “notice to the patient, the relatives, or responsible friends sufficiently long in advance of withdrawal to permit another medical attendant to be secured.”

So, yes, a doctor may terminate the doctor-patient relationship and refuse to provide future services where the patient has filed bankruptcy and/or not otherwise paid a debt. The exception to this would be where the patient-debtor had a plan for ongoing care and the doctor has not provided advance notice to the patient-debtor of termination of the doctor-patient relationship.

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Lawyer: RobertJDFL, Attorney replied 1 year ago

Was there anything I could clarify about my answer or additional information you needed? If so, please reply without rating and I'll be happy to assist further!

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