The doctor-patient relationship requires trust and respect. That has to go in both directions. For a whole host of reasons, doctor-patient relationships can break down. Some doctors are more willing to put up with patients who ask questions or push back when something doesn’t sound right than others are. If a patient doesn’t like or trust their doctor, they may not take their advice, which makes their visits a waste of time for both of them.
Can your doctor just refuse to continue treating you and tell you to find someone else? They can. However, they can’t just leave a patient without the appropriate care. There are steps they have to follow. If they don’t, they could be held liable.
What do Florida medical organizations say?
According to the Florida Board of Medicine, a health care provider may “terminate a patient relationship at any time.” However, they “may not abandon a patient and should provide continuity of care in accordance with the prevailing professional standard of care.” That’s true even if a patient is currently suing them for malpractice.
The Florida Medical Association (FMA) recommends that if a doctor decides to stop treating a patient, they take the following steps:
- Provide written notice of their decision.
- Help them find another practitioner.
- Continue to be available if the patient needs them for at least 30 days.
If a doctor refuses to see a patient again before they’ve had a chance to find another doctor who is qualified to treat the condition(s) they were treating, the patient could accuse them of medical abandonment.
How long you can reasonably be given to find another doctor depends on where you live and what your doctor was treating you for. If you live in Jacksonville and need to find another primary care physician or even a specialist, you likely have your choice of qualified doctors. If you live in a rural area and have a rare condition, it could take some time.
Your doctor does have a right to end the relationship. However, as you can see, you have rights also. If you believe that your doctor is guilty of medical abandonment and you suffered harm as a result, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.