The question of whether doctors can refuse to treat patients has not been definitively resolved by courts or legislatures. The American Medical Association, for its part, remains somewhat ambivalent on the issue. The organization’s code of ethics states that physicians have a responsibility “to place patients’ welfare above their own self-interest.” At the same time, it acknowledges that doctors are individuals with the right to free choice, stating that “physicians should have considerable latitude to act in accord with well-considered, deeply held beliefs that are central to their self-identities.” However, the code stipulates that freedom “is not unlimited.”But what about a doctor’s right to deny treatment that goes against their moral conviction? For more information on whether or not a doctor may legally refuse treatment to a patient in New York, please continue reading, then contact one of our experienced New York physician defense lawyers today.
Are doctors allowed to refuse treatment in New York?
Yes, in certain situations, doctors can refuse to provide treatment. For instance, courts have ruled that doctors may refuse to treat violent or intransigent patients so long as the doctors give proper notice so that the patients can find alternative care. Doctors may also refuse to provide treatment if it conflicts with good medical practice. For example, physicians in intensive-care units limit treatment they believe will provide no benefit, especially in cases of terminal illness.
Refusing to treat a patient based on a doctor’s conscience is an altogether thornier and more controversial matter.
When is it illegal for a doctor to refuse treatment in New York?
Per Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, doctors may not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in all health care programs or activities that receive federal funding. The current interpretation of that Section also bars discrimination based on gender identity. This definition can be applied fairly broadly. For example, if you work for a hospital or facility that accepts Medicare or Medicaid patients, you are legally required to treat all individuals regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other protected classes.
The Empire State is one of twenty states that prohibits discrimination in “public accommodations,” which include hospitals and doctor’s offices.
What happens if a doctor refuses treatment?
As a rule of thumb, if unnecessary delays in care cause irreparable harm, physicians may face legal liability for their refusal to treat a patient. If a patient needs urgent medical attention and a doctor refuses to treat him or her, that patient can pursue a medical malpractice suit against the physician and/or the establishment the doctor works for.
Whether or not this has come to pass in your case, you should avail yourself of the services of Paul E. Walker, a skilled physician defense lawyer. He will fight to protect your good name and your career, so give us a call today.
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If you are a medical professional accused of misconduct, contact the Walker Medical Law firm to set up a free initial consultation.