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What is patient abandonment?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Imagine being a patient in need of regular medical care. You rely on your doctor’s expertise and assistance to help you manage. Now, picture what would happen if your medical provider suddenly discontinues your care without any warning, leaving you uniquely vulnerable and scrambling for a replacement. 

Is this patient abandonment? Is it medical malpractice? Here’s what you need to know:

The doctor-patient relationship is unlike any other

Doctors and patients have a very special relationship. Once a physician accepts responsibility for a patient’s care, they can’t unilaterally decide to end the doctor-patient relationship without either alternative care arrangements or proper notice to the patient.

Doctors can legitimately “fire” patients from their practices for all kinds of reasons. For example, patients are commonly dismissed from medical practices because:

  • They don’t pay their bills for treatment
  • They keep missing appointments
  • They won’t go for additional testing
  • They don’t follow up with recommended specialists
  • They don’t comply with office policies
  • They harass the doctor or the doctor’s staff
  • They are aggressive and threatening 
  • The doctor doesn’t believe they have the skill to treat the patient
  • The doctor doesn’t even treat the patient’s condition

Medical providers also have the right to end their relationship with a patient if they feel that continuing the relationship would somehow be unethical. 

However, in all cases, doctors have a certain responsibility to make sure that a patient isn’t put in danger. They cannot simply cease treatment when the patient is in a critical stage of treatment. In addition, they must continue treatment while they give the patient enough notice and time to find another doctor to take over their care. When they fail to do so, that could be medical malpractice. 

Because patient abandonment is a complicated subject, it is wise to seek a legal take on your situation if you suspect that you or someone you love has been victimized this way.


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