As medical malpractice attorneys in Philadelphia, we often hear stories from patients complaining about their doctors refusing to provide medical care or terminating a physician-patient relationship for various reasons or no reason at all.

In most cases, our best medical malpractice attorneys at The Weitz Firm, LLC, take these cases and defend patients in the courtroom to seek compensation on their behalf because refusal to treat patients is prohibited by law and the physician-patient relationship was terminated for an illegal reason.

“In other cases, meanwhile, there is nothing we can do, because there are circumstances under which a physician can legally deny care to a patient,” says our Philadelphia refusal to treat patients attorney.

Can a doctor legally refuse to treat patients?

Doctors often feel compelled to refuse to treat a patient for various reasons, including but not limited to:

  • the patient’s inability to pay for the treatment;
  • the patient’s lack of insurance coverage;
  • the patient’s failure to show up for appointments;
  • the patient’s reluctance to follow the doctor’s orders (i.e. failure to take prescribed medications);
  • the patient requesting services outside the physician’s area of expertise;
  • the patient requesting services that are morally or religiously objectionable to the doctor; and
  • the patient suffering from a transmissible disease.

Generally, physicians in Pennsylvania and all across the U.S. must have a legal reason for refusing to treat a patient or terminating the physician-patient relationship. In fact, there are limited circumstances under which doctors can refuse to provide medical care to a patient. In most cases, terminating the relationship and/or refusing to treat a patient is against the law and may constitute medical malpractice.

Refusing to treat patients is a violation of the EMTALA

Our experienced refusal to treat patients attorney in Philadelphia explains that physicians who refuse to provide medical care to patients for an illegal and unjustifiable reason act in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), the federal law that was signed by President Ronald Reagan more than three decades ago.

The main purpose of the EMTALA law is to prevent the so-called practice of “patient dumping” and punish doctor for releasing patients and/or denying medical treatment to patients who do not have valid or sufficient insurance coverage or have no means to pay for the medical care. The EMTALA applies to all hospitals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and all across the U.S. that receive Medicare funding.

How denial of medical care is against the law

Under the EMTALA, hospitals taking part in Medicare and their physicians have a legal duty to provide medical screening tests and examinations to determine whether the patient has a medical emergency condition, and, if he or she has that condition that requires urgent medical care, the physician has a duty to stabilize the patient regardless of his or her ability to pay for it or transfer the patient to another hospital unless that transfer could cause harm to the patient (for example, the patient’s condition would get worse during the transfer).

“Although patients cannot directly sue a physician who failed to comply with the rules imposed by the EMTALA, filing a complaint may result in penalties for the non-compliant hospital and physician and may even result in the hospital’s loss of Medicare funding,” says our Philadelphia refusal to treat lawyer from The Weitz Firm, LLC.

Refusal to treat is abandonment of the patient

However, as always, there are exceptions to the general rule. If a physician has provided reasonable notice to the patient, in writing, and there is sufficient time for the patient to find another physician to continue the treatment, that physician may be able to legally terminate the physician-patient relationship.

If a physician fails to provide reasonable notice and does not give that patient enough time to find another physician, that patient may be able to hold the physician responsible for “abandonment of the patient” and sue him or her for the breach of duty.

In Pennsylvania, a physician can be subject to disciplinary action and exposed to civil liability if the patient can prove “abandonment of the patient” as the breach of the physician’s duty.

Speak to our medical malpractice attorneys at The Weitz Firm, LLC, to review your particular case and determine whether or not you have a valid case against your physician who refused to provide treatment or severed the physician-patient relationship without providing reasonable notice. Schedule a free consultation by calling at 267-587-6240.

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