Is it legal for a doctor to refuse treatment of one condition because of the patient’s refusal to have a separate non-related test performed?

UPDATED: Feb 6, 2012

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Is it legal for a doctor to refuse treatment of one condition because of the patient’s refusal to have a separate non-related test performed?

My doctor will no longer renew my oral contraceptives that are used only to treat menstrual problems without my having a pap smear. I told the doctor I would not be having the test done, and therefore my prescription is being withheld. I have found proof from the WHO, ACOG, and FDA that this test is not required for the prescription, and that nothing found in the test would prevent the pills from being prescribed. I am willing to accept responsibility and sign a waiver that the doctor was not at fault if somehow I develop this cancer but the doctor will not allow it. This seems unethical.

Asked on February 6, 2012 under Malpractice Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the doctor believes that it is potentially dangerous or inappropriate to keep giving you the prescription without the test, he may refuse to do so. The fact that you have found other sources indicating it is not required does not overcome the doctor's own professional judgment about the best thing to do in this specific case. If the doctor believes that it would be wrong to proscribe without the test, he would actually be violating his ethical and professional obligations (and potentially committing malpractice) to give you the prescription.

If you and your doctor do not see eye to eye, it may be time for a different physician.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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