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Chrissi85's avatar

Can an alcoholic be refused a doctor?

Asked by Chrissi85 (1065 points ) July 22nd, 2010

I am about to register with a new doctor, and I am a little worried. I have a pretty bad drinking problem (yes I know, yes I will, yes I am trying) and there is this whole alcoholic screening test thing. I have done it before and the results were.. shall we say not good. I am not in the habit of lying to doctors, especially as their help would go a long way towards getting past this. Trouble is I have heard various rumours that surgery’s now wont accept you if you are an alcoholic (I am in England) I was wondering if anyone knows if this is true?

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14 Answers

Trance24's avatar

Thats definitely interesting, my mom is an alcoholic (now recovered) but she has never been refused. I also live in America though so I am not sure what England is like. If this is true I have no idea what their basis is for it.

Chrissi85's avatar

Well I am aware you can get refused certain types of treatment if you drink/smoke, but to be honest that seems only fair to me. I wouldn’t have a right to complain if I destroyed my liver and then got refused another one.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

From what I understand, England’s NHS is about focusing on wellness in order to prevent greater healthcare costs down the road. Here is a link to their website that may be of some assistance.

josie's avatar

What good is seeking the services of a physician if you are going to lie about your history. That means every diagnosis and treatment plan will be suspect.

Chrissi85's avatar

I already said I am not in the habit of lying to doctors

Chrissi85's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer thankyou for the link

LuckyGuy's avatar

Depending upon the surgery you might not be a good candidate because of the drinking. Liver function and blood /brain chemistry all contribute to a successful outcome. The anesthesiologist also needs to know.
Is there any way you can go cold turkey for just 30 days? You will greatly increase the chance of success. .

Lightlyseared's avatar

No. An NHS GP can not refuse to register you as a patient because you are an alcoholic. The best thing to do is be open about it but to also be willing to at least try any treatment offered to help you overcome it.

As a side note the NHS will happily give an alcoholic a new liver although if they continue to drink after the liver transplant they won’t offer another organ in the future. If however you are abstinent and the transplated liver fails you would be still be considered for retransplant.

ItsAHabit's avatar

I don’t think you need fear being rejected by a physician.

You might be interested to know that many, if not most, physicians reject the theory that alcoholism is a disease. A survey in the U.S. found that about 75% reject the disease theory of alcoholism. See, for example, Mignon, S. I. (1996). Physicians’ Perceptions of Alcoholics—The Disease Concept Reconsidered. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 14(4), 33–45.
doi:10.1300/J020V14N04_02

In this study only ¼ of the physicians viewed alcoholism as a disease.

Jeruba's avatar

That’s interesting, @ItsAHabit. Can you supply links? What do they consider it, then? A disease can be brought on by behavior (diabetes and AIDS, for example), but once you have it, you have it.

Chrissi85's avatar

@worriedguy sorry I meant a doctors surgery, didn’t mean to be confusing. @everyone else thank you very much for your input. I shall just be honest, fill out the form and get it in after the weekend. @ItsAHabit I never really considered it a disease, it’s an addiction, I guess some people see it that way shrug but I don’t feel it’s something that you are totally stuck with, @Jeruba like the examples you give. Sure, the urge stays with you, and probably some of the damage, but you can be a recovered alcoholic… you cant be a recovered AIDS sufferer… I think what I am trying to say is, my alcoholism is my own fault. I feel no need to pass it off as a disease, or blame it on my parents, genetics or environment. I got myself into this through lack of willpower (I am not applying this to other alcoholics, you are more than welcome to feel however you feel about your addiction) and I will get myself out of it. Fingers crossed.

Jeruba's avatar

@Chrissi85, the alcoholics I know say there’s no such thing as a recovered alcoholic. You can stop the behavior and be “in recovery,” but you’ll always be an alcoholic. You can never go back to being a normal drinker. If you relapse, you can be right back at your worst within minutes, literally.

These same folks are sustaining their sobriety with the help of a program that they practice faithfully. It works for them, and they say if they can do it, anybody can do it.

Best wishes to you.

Flavio's avatar

Some people are not surgical candidates because of certain factors that include lifestyle habits such as drinking. The issue with surgery is that the patient and the doc have to weigh risks and benefits. Factors such as drinking may tip the scale in the direction of more risk than benefit, in which case a self-respecting surgeon would not proceed with an operation. It’s not about punishing alcoholics, it’s all about trying to maximize benefits and minimize risks.
Internists and GPs have a different calculus because they don’t operate. It’s better to have someone engaged with treatment and under observation to reduce existing risk factors. Not only can you work with your GP to stop drinking, but also you can get your cholesterol checked, get your colonoscopy, lose weight, and other things to reduce risk of other bad illnesses. I am a psychiatrist and I work with a lot of alcoholics. There is a bunch of stuff I work with in my patients before they stop drinking, but some things cannot be done if the alcoholic is actively and heavily drinking. For example, I won’t prescribe several different classes of medications because of higher risk of side effects. I also won’t do serious psychotherapy because the patient is always in escape mode with the booze.

I do think addiction is a disease. It does not make sense to see it as a moral flaw. It’s etiologically complex with genetic, psychological, and environmental causal components. Genetics can’t change, but other factors are within our power to modify. Most heavy drinkers never become alcoholics, about 10% do. These 10% are genetically predisposed If you never drink or never drink heavily, you will never get addicted even if you genetically predisposed. Bottom line, it’s a disease within the pt’s ability to control – much like diabetes.

mattbrowne's avatar

Not in Germany. Alcoholism is an addiction. And addictions are considered to be diseases.

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