However, physicians are not ethically required to accept all prospective patients. Physicians should be thoughtful in exercising their right to choose whom to serve.
A physician may decline to establish a patient-physician relationship with a prospective patient, or provide specific care to an existing patient, in certain limited circumstances:
- The patient requests care that is beyond the physician’s competence or scope of practice; is known to be scientifically invalid, has no medical indication, or cannot reasonably be expected to achieve the intended clinical benefit; or is incompatible with the physician’s deeply held personal, religious, or moral beliefs in keeping with ethics guidance on exercise of conscience.
- The physician lacks the resources needed to provide safe, competent, respectful care for the individual. Physicians may not decline to accept a patient for reasons that would constitute discrimination against a class or category of patients.
- Meeting the medical needs of the prospective patient could seriously compromise the physician’s ability to provide the care needed by his or her other patients. The greater the prospective patient’s medical need, however, the stronger is the physician’s obligation to provide care, in keeping with the professional obligation to promote access to care.
- The individual is abusive or threatens the physician, staff, or other patients, unless the physician is legally required to provide emergency medical care. Physicians should be aware of the possibility that an underlying medical condition may contribute to this behavior.
Ethics Cases & Legal Briefs
- Ethics Case Can Physicians Decline Unvaccinated Patients?