If I Can't Pay, Can a Doctor Refuse to Treat Me?


When patients are unable to afford medical services, those services can be denied by a medical professional. In fact, this is one of the most common reasons why doctors exercise their limited right to refuse treatment.

A doctor’s right to refuse care is limited in several ways. For example, doctors can’t refuse to treat a patient because of the patient’s race, sex, religion, or another protected class. Doctors can also exercise discretion and choose not to treat patients who are abusive or require treatment that falls beyond the doctor’s scope of practice.

Pertinent to this topic, however, medical professionals and institutions can’t refuse to treat a patient when their refusal would cause harm – even if the patient can’t pay. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the emergency room, where patients in need of immediate medical attention often receive it regardless of their ability to pay.

For example, a patient who suffers a severe laceration can’t be refused medical treatment. Refusal could mean allowing the patient to bleed to death or suffer from an infection that could lead to necrosis or even total death. This extreme example underlines a salient point: When a doctor’s refusal to treat a patient would allow greater harm to occur, they must treat the patient.

When to Contact an Attorney

If you were refused necessary medical treatment and became severely injured as a result of the refusal, you may be able to recover damages from the medical professional or institution responsible denying treatment.

While patients can be refused treatment when they’re unable to pay, there are limited circumstances in which doctors must still treat them. Our attorney at the Law Office of David A. Kates can investigate your claim and ascertain legal options that may be available to you during this time.

For more information, contact the Law Office of David A. Kates by calling (718) 866-3664">(718) 866-3664 today.