Can A Doctor Refuse To Treat A Patient?

Chapter 2 of  Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 describes duties of doctors to their patient. Relevant regulations are

  • Though a physician is not bound to treat each and every person asking his services, he should not only be ever ready to respond to the calls of the sick and the injured, but should be mindful of the high character of his mission and the responsibility he discharges in the course of his professional duties. In his treatment, he should never forget that the health and the lives of those entrusted to his care depend on his skill and attention. A physician should endeavour to add to the comfort of the sick by making his visits at the hour indicated to the patients.
  • A physician advising a patient to seek service of another physician is acceptable, however, in case of emergency a physician must treat the patient. No physician shall arbitrarily refuse treatment to a patient. However for good reason, when a patient is suffering from an ailment which is not within the range of experience of the treating physician, the physician may refuse treatment and refer the patient to another physician.
  • A physician is free to choose whom he will serve. He should, however, respond to any request for his assistance in an emergency. Once having undertaken a case, the physician should not neglect the patient, nor should he withdraw from the case without giving adequate notice to the patient and his family. Provisionally or fully registered medical practitioner shall not willfully commit an act of negligence that may deprive his patient or patients from necessary medical care.

Relevant regulations of the new (Draft) National Medical Commission Registered Medical Practitioner (Professional Conduct) Regulations, 2022,

  • A RMP is free to choose whom he will serve, except in case of a lifethreatening emergency. Having accepted a case, the RMP should neither neglect the patient nor withdraw from the case without giving adequate notice to the patient and his family. If a change of RMP is needed (for example, the patient needs a procedure done by another RMP), consent should be obtained from the patient himself or the guardian. The RMP who attends to the patient will be fully accountable for his actions and entitled to the appropriate fees. In case of abusive, unruly, and violent patients or relatives, the RMP can document and report the behavior and refuse to treat the patient. Such patients should be referred for further treatment elsewhere. (L2-L4)
  • Consultation fees should be made known to the patient before examination or treatment of the patient. A reasonable estimation of the cost of surgery or treatment should be provided to the patient to enable an informed decision. A RMP can refuse to continue to treat a patient if the fees, as indicated, are not paid. This does not apply to doctors in Government service or emergencies and the doctor must ensure that the patient is not abandoned.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *