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The Physician-Patient Relationship

May a physician refuse to take me as a patient? If the physician has not treated you before, that physician may refuse to treat you, even in an emergency.

When must a physician treat me? Once the physician has agreed to treat you for an illness, the physician must continue to treat you until your illness is over or as long as continuing medical attention is needed. This duty exists as long as the treatment is within the physician's specialty or ability, unless the physician gives you reasonable notice of a desire to terminate the physician-patient relationship. The physician may ask you to go to another physician but cannot quit treating you until you have had a reasonable time to find another physician.

Can a physician stop treating me because I cannot pay the bill? The physician may do so if the physician has given you reasonable notice of an intention to stop treatment and has given you reasonable time to make other arrangements for medical care.

What if my regular physician wants to stop treating me? If you are not being treated for an acute illness, your physician may refuse to provide routine care; this will then terminate the physician-patient relationship. If you have been seeing a physician for routine care and you need emergency care, your physician may refuse to treat you if you need care outside your physician's specialty.

May my physician have another physician care for me if my physician is not available? Yes

What is "abandonment"? "Abandonment" is the legal term for a physician's one-sided breaking of the physician-patient relationship without reasonable notice, at a time when continuing medical attention is still necessary.

Can I dismiss the physician? Yes. You can ask at any time that the physician stop treating you. This ends the physician's duty to treat you. The terminated physician is not required to find you another physician.

What are interns and residents? Interns and residents are physician who have finished medical school and are studying a specific area of medicine. They are allowed to practice medicine only under the supervision of a licensed physician.

Are medical students physicians? Medical students are not physicians, and it is illegal for them to hold themselves out as such. They should not be called "doctor."

May I refuse to be treated by interns, residents, and medical students? Yes. You may request to be treated by your physician or your physician's associates who have finished their training. If you do not wish to be treated by interns, residents, or medical students, you should make this clear to your physician ahead of time. This may affect where you can be treated, or the charges for your treatment.

Do I have the right to have someone with during examination and treatment? An adult does not have a legal right to be accompanied by another person during treatment. You should discuss this with your prospective physician and explain your concern about being alone during treatment. Many physicians are happy to have their patient bring a friend or spouse along. In certain cases, it may be necessary for the guardian of a patient to be present during treatment. It is usually necessary for the parents of a minor to be present if consent for additional treatment is necessary.

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