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Does My Doctor Have the Right to Fire Me?

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
April 12, 2012

Question: In the past patients could change doctors if they were unhappy. Recently, I read that doctors now have the right to dismiss or fire a patient. Is this true?

Answer: Thank you for writing. One word – yes.  A doctor can legally fire a patient. The American Medical Association (AMA) has guidelines as to how the physician may terminate a relationship with a patient. Doctors end relationships with patients for a variety of reason, including non-compliance (not following treatment) and unpleasant behavior. Here is a web link for more information from the AMA:
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/legal-topics/patient-physician-relationship-topics/ending-patient-physician-relationship.page

Doctors cannot legally terminate a patient for several reasons; most of these reasons involve state or federal laws.  For example, doctors cannot dismiss a patient based on their race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. Also, doctors cannot legally dismiss patients who are in the midst of treatments, such as undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

If you have been dismissed, you can appeal to your doctor. Find out what the issue is and work on resolution.  Always be very pleasant during this resolution process. If you are unable to find a resolution, ask for copies of your medical record. The next step is to seek a new doctor. Ask family & friends for suggestions. You may also find physicians by clicking on this link:
http://www.healthcare.gov/compare/index.html (Once on the website, click on "physician compare.")

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Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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