Is it legally correct for a doctor to refuse to treat a patient? Dr. MC Gupta answers

M3 India Newsdesk Nov 22, 2018

Dr. MC Gupta, an AIIMS doctor turned lawyer offers medico-legal advice as to whether a doctor can refuse to treat a patient due to certain reasons and what steps can be taken if a patient goes absconding without paying the hospital bills.



Medico-legal queries

Q. Can a doctor refuse to treat his patient on grounds of patient's relatives being aggressive?


Dr. MC Gupta answers...

There is nothing wrong if doctors/hospitals refuse to treat a non-serious patient who is a source of trouble to staff and other patients. If the security of the doctors is an issue, doctors would be justified in going on strike after a proper legal notice if all other efforts to seek redress of their genuine demands fail.

There is no question of “revengeful" action by the medical staff. Doctors do not join the medical profession to be vengeful to patients.

 

A. If the patient or a patient's relatives are abusive, arrogant, or violent such behaviour should be documented. If they do not pay hospital charges, and the patient no longer needs emergency treatment, the hospital would be justified in giving them a proper legally drafted notice to pay up and to make alternate arrangements for treatment elsewhere. If they do not take desired action within 24 hours, a complaint should be made to police against unauthorised and forcible occupation of hospital premises.

B. Unless doctors/hospitals take such a tough stand, they will continue to suffer.

C. If through means of good contacts, a bed can be arranged for the patient in a government hospital, it is better to inform the patient in writing about this.

D. Discharge papers should be prepared, but LAMA should not be written. Instead, the following should be stated, The patient is being discharged because of violent behaviour on part of the attendants, posing a threat to the staff and property, and other patients, after due notice to the patient and after due information/complaint to the police. They have not paid the hospital bill amounting to Rs. ...../-"



Q. If a patient admitted to a government hospital does such things and is not ready to go elsewhere, what can be done?

A. The approach basically remains the same for private and government hospitals.

In a government hospital, the treating doctors should make a complaint to the medical superintendent in writing under acknowledgement, stating that the doctors and other staff in the ward are not willing to be exposed to insult and violence.

Note: The problem is that the doctors, in general, are too scared to make such a complaint to the medical superintendent in writing under acknowledgement.


Q. What to do if a patient or a patient's relatives make threats?

A. Threatening is an offense under IPC. The hospital should make a complaint to the police.

 

Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

Content from the writer has been directly replicated on the website. No edits have been made.

The writer, Dr. MC Gupta is a practising lawyer specialising in medical negligence cases. He also has an MD Medicine from AIIMS, Delhi where he also worked as a faculty member for 18 years, later working another 10 years as a Professor and Dean at National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi, before pursuing law.

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