What can a physician do when maintaining the physician-patient relationship is no longer in the best interest of either the physician or the patient? While this is a common concern of physicians, there is a simple solution: Terminate the relationship. The ethics of the medical profession define the physician–patient relationship as one in which the doctor accepts ongoing responsibility for the patient’s medical care. Unfortunately, there will be some physician–patient relationships that, for whatever reason, simply do not work, and therefore it is in the best interest of the patient to terminate the relationship.
Explore this issue:January 2013
In general, a physician may legally and ethically decide not to continue treating a patient as long as the patient is not in need of immediate care and has been given a reasonable opportunity to find another provider. However, it is advisable that a letter be sent to the patient indicating that the physician-patient “contract” has been terminated. This letter should be drafted by a health care attorney so as to avoid potential legal pitfalls for the physician and the medical practice.
Grounds for Terminating the Physician-Patient Relationship
A successful physician–patient relationship must be based on mutual trust and effective communication. When these elements break down, it is likely in both parties’ interests to terminate the relationship. Common reasons for terminating the physician-patient relationship include: