Can a doctor refuse to take a new patient due to history of 1 missed appointment because they were in the hospital?

UPDATED: Sep 12, 2011

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Can a doctor refuse to take a new patient due to history of 1 missed appointment because they were in the hospital?

My husband went to the ER with severe abdominal pain. He had acute pancreatitis. He was treated and sent home with a referral to a gastroenterologist. My husband made an appointment with the doctor and the day of his appointment was in the hospital for the same reason. Due to progress was discharged without seeing doctor. He has since been trying to make an appointment with the doctor whose secretaries are refusing. They are saying that the doctor won’t take him due to appointment history. They have also admitted on a recorded call that the only 1 appointment he has missed was when he was in hospital.

Asked on September 12, 2011 under Malpractice Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There are limitations on a doctor's ability to drop an existing patient, if that patient is in need of medical care and the patient does not have another doctor lined up.  There are, however, no laws or ethical rules requiring doctors to take new patients, if either there is some business or personal reason to not accept the new patient, or the practice is full up, or both. From what you write, your husband is a new patient; he did not actually see this doctor ever. While it  may be only one appointment that was missed, it was the very first appointment--which is also often the longest one, since there is a lot of "intake" work and initial testing and consultation. A doctor is a business: he does  not have to accept a new patient who has already demonstrated to the doctor unreliability (even if there was a reason for), causing the doctor to lose money since the doctor would not have scheduled other patients for the time slot allocated to your husband's initial visit.

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