Is it Wrong for a Physician Discriminate Against a Patient?

Generally speaking, a physician may be free to accept or reject which patients go under their direct healthcare. However, there are certain circumstances in which a physician must not discriminate against whom they offer treatments. Otherwise, this may prompt a patient to file a complaint with the New York State Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Discipline (OPMC). Continue reading to learn when it is wrong for a physician to discriminate against a patient and how one of the experienced OPMC/OPD misconduct defense lawyers at Walker Medical Law can help you avoid crossing this fine line.

Under what circumstances is it wrong for a physician to discriminate against a patient?

There are certain New York State statutes set in stone to protect patients’ rights. Namely, these statutes maintain that patients have the right to receive treatment from a licensed New York State physician without discrimination as to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, or source of payment. In other words, it is wrong for a physician to discriminate against a patient based on their protected class.

To use an example, a patient may hold a certain religious belief that has them reject certain healthcare practices. Specifically, their beliefs may have them refuse resuscitation. With this, a patient has the right to receive all necessary information regarding their health and the proposed procedure or treatment plan by their physician, so that they may give informed consent for an order not to resuscitate. Otherwise, it would be considered wrong for a physician to overlook a patient’s religious beliefs and administer resuscitation anyway. Rather, it works in everyone’s favor if a physician considers alternative treatment plans that respect the patient’s religious beliefs, all while maintaining their duty of care.

In a contrasting example, a patient may ask a physician to conduct a certain procedure or treatment plan. Specifically, they may be asking for an abortion or prescription narcotics. With this, it may not be wrong for a physician to refuse their healthcare if it directly goes against their personal religious beliefs. This is so long as a physician gives a patient the respect of providing advanced notice, so that they may be granted at least two to four weeks to locate a new physician.

What happens if a patient reports discrimination to the OPMC?

If a patient believes that you discriminated against them based on their protected class, they may get the OPMC involved. Soon after, the OPMC may conduct interviews with your other patients, colleagues, employer, etc. to determine whether such discriminatory behavior exists, or if it is possibly even a pattern. This may go along with other investigative activities. In a worst-case scenario, the OPMC may ultimately rule for the revocation of your medical license.

So as soon as you get word of a potential OPMC investigation against you, you must consult with one of the skilled OPMC/OPD misconduct defense lawyers at Walker Medical Law. Contact our firm today.