Social Question

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Can a doctor refuse to see a patient for political reasons?

Asked by Dr_Dredd (10523points) April 3rd, 2010

A urologist in Florida posted the following sign on his door: “If you voted for Obama, seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now. Not in four years.” Dr. Jack Cassell claims that he wouldn’t actually refuse to treat anyone, but hopes that certain people will read the sign and voluntarily go somewhere else.

What do you think? Should he be able to do this? And how would you react if you were referred to him, whether or not you support the Obama health care plan?

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87 Answers

rahm_sahriv's avatar

A doctor should not be able to refuse a patient care for political reasons. What are we, back in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia?

This doctor is allowed his political views, but he cannot refuse treatment if he isn’t in private practice. There is also the Hippocratic oath that should stand in his way of refusal to treat if he practices privately. Not quite sure on private laws though.

lilikoi's avatar

It doesn’t bother me. If he hates people who are neutral to supportive of Obama, do I really want to put my life in his hands? (not saying he hates him, just making a point)

Comes off a little immature and unprofessional. Hopefully his clients aren’t all Obama fans.

laureth's avatar

One would think that as a private business owner, he could choose who to do business with and who not – even if it does mean he’s a jerk.

If pharmacists are allowed to fail to dispense birth control based on religious views, this seems a similar move. I’m not saying I support either one.

jaytkay's avatar

A urologist? I would be pissed.

Response moderated
Dr_Dredd's avatar

@jaytkay Ouch; I let myself in for that. :-)

@laureth Yeah, I agree it’s probably legal, but it sure makes him look like an asshole. Personally, whatever my political views, I’d probably tell him to go take a flying fuck. (And make sure I tell other people about my opinion…)

(And I definitely do not think that a pharmacist should be able to refuse to dispense birth control for religious reasons.)

cockswain's avatar

I wonder if this would increase or decrease his business. In a similar vein, there’s a car dealership in my city that put up a billboard in front of their lot that says “Birth certificate? Prove it!”. While that will drive any Obama supporter away, might it draw more conservatives than otherwise to his business?

janbb's avatar

The Hippocratic Oath?

rebbel's avatar

The Hypocritical Oath.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

A doctor should of course be allowed to refuse any patient for any reason (he might of course sign away this right to join another practice, etc).

GingerMinx's avatar

I say the more business that let us know how stupid they are the better chance we have of ending up using the best.

ChaosCross's avatar

Ideally it should not be that way, but legally it is possible.

snowberry's avatar

I’m all for it. At least this doc is honest. I’ve met far too many who aren’t.

gemiwing's avatar

I would file a complaint with the medical board, alert the local media and walk away. I don’t view it as illegal, yet very unprofessional. Chances are his peers already know this and he has to sit alone at a banquet table at every CME event. preferably with duct tape on his mouth

ETpro's avatar

His action seems to be against the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath and is most certainly in conflict with the AMA Oath to keep political beliefs separate from the quality of patient care. I saw him on TV discussing his sign. He was quite pleased with himself, and came of like a retard. I was left wondering how he ever made it through medical school, and figured those that see the sign and go elsewhere are better off for it.

augustlan's avatar

What an ass. I’m sure it’s legal, but it certainly seems unethical. Real moral guy, huh?

Cruiser's avatar

I read the interview a few days ago and the Doc did say he would not deny service to any patient and was simply exercising his right to express his views about this new health care bill. Even Doctors have a right to express their own views on matters this important to their profession.

ETpro's avatar

@Cruiser I heard him carrying on about that. I agree he has a First Amendment right to express his views. I do not agree that the sign constitutes any sort of rational objecting to the healthcare reform bill. It looks threatening and fascistic. I would never go to any doctor who took his politics that seriously.

Pandora's avatar

I read the article on MSN. It is quite the little story. Apparently he isn’t breaking any laws because he just suggested, (by posting a note on the door) that those whom voted for Obama seek care elsewhere. He claims he is not harassing his patients by asking them about there politics. He said if they walk away then too bad. He’s not forcing them to come back but he’s not specifically telling them to go away. He states that his note is a suggestion.
I guess some people are just really pissy about health-care reform.
I think he’s just dancing around the Hippocratic Oath, but unfortunately it isn’t a bias covered by our current laws.

snowberry's avatar

@augustlan LOL, and Obama’s moral?

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ETpro: “His action seems to be against the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath” <== there is also in the original Hippocratic Oath (there are different versions) an agreement not to assist in abortion. Most schools don’t require a Hippocratic Oath.

What about doctors who retire early because they don’t want to treat anyone under Obama Care? Are they unethical? Doctors should be allowed to treat everyone, no one, and anything in between using any criteria they want.

snowberry's avatar

Hey, in Canada doctors can’t even choose where they live. They have to practice where they’re told to. It really puts a cramp on the lifestyle, and income. We are not that far behind.

Pandora's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish True to a certain degree. What if he starts to refuse people of different races. What if every doctor joined in and decided never to treat another democrat. Its one thing to retire another to exclude a group by the way they vote. Hell than republicans should be boycotted because they voted for Bush who put us in the poor house.
Personally I wouldn’t care. At least the note on the door tells me he is practicing medicine in the wrong field. He should have studied gastroenterology. Then he would’ve been right on target!

davidbetterman's avatar

Of course he can refuse new patients for whatever reason. This is America, is it not?
And the patient has all the right in the world to seek a different medical practitioner.

DocteurAville's avatar

I don’t know but a doctor can give you a excuse to not “see” you. That wouldn’t bother me. In the other hand I would enjoy having an argument with a doctor about it !

snowberry's avatar

LOL @Pandora BUSH put us in the poor house??? Ha ha ha What do you call a bail out plan that our great great grandchildren will be still paying on? LOLOL

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry I believe you call that what it took to prevent a second Great Depression after 8 years of Bush mismanagement and incompetence.

snowberry's avatar

So sorry. You don’t get yourself out of a money jam by borrowing from your kids AND THEIR KIDS’ KIDS! That’s stupid. Doesn’t matter what your reason is.

jaytkay's avatar

@snowberry BUSH put us in the poor house??? Ha ha ha What do you call a bail out plan that our great great grandchildren will be still paying on? LOLOL

It’s called the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and it was signed into law by GW Bush in October 2008 .

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry That’s exactly what Herbert Hoover said in 1929 when the economy tanked. Let it fix itself. It didn’t. The country had to throw the Con Men out then too, and put FDR in the White House to start spending and get the country back to work. What Hoover dis failed. What FDR did worked.

snowberry's avatar

lol, we have a con man in the white house now. No worries.

Pandora's avatar

@snowberry You should try other channels to get your news. Fox, said itself that it is primarily a entertainment channel. They only give real news one hour a day. And even that is kind of iffy. They said clear Skys in Washington this morning and it was cloudy and hazy till I left at two. Only trust their traffic report. LOL

snowberry's avatar

I don’t watch Fox news. And we do have a first rate con-man in the white house.

It appears that he could sell the US to China, and you’d probably think it’s all good. Who ever thought good finance means selling our children’s birthright is sadly misguided. Blaming that on Bush is kind of silly. Bush didn’t do the bail out plan—Obama did. How could you blame that on Bush? LOL

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry Bush passed the TARP, and it’s one of the few things he did that made good sense, although his treasury secretary botched handing out the funds. No accountability, no guarantee of repayment, in many cases, not even a clear record of where the money went. But had Bush not gotten that done, we would have slipped into Depression II. The evidence of that is clear.

Obama pushed through an Economic Stimulus plan of tax cuts for the middle class and spending to get the economy rolling again. It didn’t work overnight, but the progress has been steady. Jobs have gone from losses of 700,000 a month to job growth this month. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124424456574990491.html

davidbetterman's avatar

@snowberry You are absolutely correct about Obama being the consummate conman. I can’t believe anyone thinks he is some new, wonderful hero in the white house.

@ETpro Bush has done nothing but help push us into the Great depression of 2007 ever since his Enron days. Bush is nothing more than evil incarnate. As is his daddy and his brothers and his mother…

augustlan's avatar

@snowberry I never said anything about Obama at all. I’d feel the exact same way about a doctor who posted this on his door: “If you didn’t vote for Obama, seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now. Not in four years.” That doctor would still be an ass. He’d still be within his legal rights, but on ethically shaky ground. I’d still question his morality.

mammal's avatar

i would send a urine sample through his letter box.

Kraigmo's avatar

He should be allowed to do it, in the way he did. He says he won’t personally turn them away, so fine.

This stupid doctor is just digging his own grave anyway, and in more ways than one.

thriftymaid's avatar

A doctor may refuse to see a patient. That’s all.

snowberry's avatar

“What an ass. I’m sure it’s legal, but it certainly seems unethical. Real moral guy, huh?” @augustlan So the doctor is not being “moral” by his behavior? My point is if you can call this doctor immoral, (and I’m not sure why you would call his posting a notice on his door immoral) then you can certainly call Obama’s behavior immoral. Obama is providing a lot more evidence.

laureth's avatar

@Pandora – while I agree with the point you’re trying to make, “What if every doctor joined in and decided never to treat another democrat” is just as much a slippery-slope argument as “if everyone in the world were gay, the species would be doomed.” Unlikely to happen in either case. ;)

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

Thank you @laureth except I disagree with the point @Pandora is trying to make. @Pandora thinks the government owns doctor productivity and can distribute it as it sees fit while I think doctors own their own productivity and should therefore decide how it is distributed.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@ETpro @snowberry:
a) Bush was spending too much money (all recent presidents have).
b) Obama was elected and we have an out of the ballpark new world record on spending. No president EVER has spent as much as fast as Obama.

laureth's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish – A stimulus package was needed – fast! – to avert disaster. It’s bad luck that he inherited a mess and had to act so decisively so soon, but if he did it slowly we’d be worse off. If my house is burning, I hope the firefighters come quickly too.

Also: Do you think that by saying businesses (like Denny’s) have to serve black people, for example, the government is trying to own restaurant productivity? I don’t think a similar rule for doctors would be any different.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@laureth: Of course restaurants shouldn’t be told who they do and don’t have to serve. Think of the many billions these “serve everyone” rules cost decent restaurant patrons every year.

snowberry's avatar

I agree that no president has spent like Obama. That’s an understatement. And certainly not all of us agree that the way out of the mess is to mortgage our future. There WERE options other than selling us down the river.

laureth's avatar

Okay, I know it’s drift, but I’ll bite. @malevolentbutticklish – how does Denny’s serving black people mean that my Eggs Over My Hammy costs me more than if they didn’t? Fact-based, if possible. I’m interested.

snowberry's avatar

Several posters have picked up the idea that the doctor refused to serve patients who voted “wrong”. From all that I’ve read and heard, this doctor never said he wouldn’t serve anyone! In effect, he said he’d rather that patients who voted for Obama would go else where. He doesn’t know who voted for who, and would never know, unless that particular patient told him. So your arguments don’t make sense.

@malevolentbutticklish and @laureth Comparing this doctor stating his preferences of patients, with a restaurant refusing to serve blacks is painting him as a racist. I haven’t read or listened to ALL of his comments, but was there ANY reference to race in his notice, or in his verbal comments? You didn’t say. I doubt there was, and if there was, the press would have made a much bigger yowl than there is now. I’m not saying the man is racist or not. But let’s not smear his character with that kind of charge when you have no evidence. If you have evidence of this man being a racist, please show it.

Some folks seem to have the idea that if you don’t like Obama, it must be because he’s “black”. Well, that’s not the reason I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t vote for him because I didn’t like his politics. When the campaign was going on, I never heard ANYONE say they weren’t going to vote for Obama because he was black. I’m sure folks like that are out there, but that’s not all of us for certain.

snowberry's avatar

Wow. I’m really tired. The original poster put that (refusing to see a patient) in his question, and then referred to the guy who suggested it as if he refused to see the patients. The question’s a little misleading to begin with, but then, this is fluther.

I need to go get a life. LOL

laureth's avatar

@snowberry – I brought it up as a comparison of two businesses (potentially) refusing service because of an arbitrary characteristic of the customer. At no time did I suggest the doctor was a racist, but I did call him a jerk.

snowberry's avatar

@laureth, Nope. You didn’t suggest he was a racist. I just don’t think your comparison quite fit. On the other hand, I suppose we all are (potential racists).

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@snowberry I disagree that the question is misleading. I described the situation as it exists, and then asked if people think the doctor should be able to go even further than that.

cockswain's avatar

Just came across this. Apparently the good doctor who sparked the whole controversy admits he doesn’t know enough about HCR to back up his stance. What a douche.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@cockswain Thanks. I hadn’t seen that. What a stupid ass.

ETpro's avatar

He’s getting lots of TV time out of this. His practice will probably be overrun with RWNJs. His interviews show that he must get all his news from the likes of Rush Limbaugh. His ideas about what the bill actually does are wildly off base.

If his TV interviews are at all representative of his intellectual capacity, this may actually work out well. Dr. Dittohead and others like him can treat nothing but a cadre of the far-right, and their incompetence may lead to social Darwinism.

cockswain's avatar

Plus, as a doctor he’ll be seen as a credible source and will therefore provide further “proof” this health care bill will bring about the end of days.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s illegal in Germany. There was a case last Germany and the doctor almost lost her license. She apologized and the authorities dropped the case.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@mattbrowne What were the details of the case?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Dr_Dredd – An orthodontist refused to treat a boy named Jihad. In hindsight the doctor said she regretted sending the boy away. “He can’t help it that his parents named him so,” she said.

http://islamineurope.blogspot.com/2010/02/germany-orthodontist-refuses-to-treat.html

cockswain's avatar

that sounds like an onion article.

mattbrowne's avatar

It was also in my local newspaper. But I couldn’t find much on the web in English. Here’s an article in one of the most reputable newspapers in Germany titled ‘Holy War in the Waiting Room’. The story is very real.

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/65/502301/text/

cockswain's avatar

i wasn’t implying it wasn’t real. Just doesn’t sound real.

Silhouette's avatar

Doc sounds like a childish prick and I wouldn’t want someone like him messing around my pee pee. I would be one of the many finding another, more grown up, doctor. Piss off Doc.

mattbrowne's avatar

You mean the boy named Jihad or the doctor’s behavior doesn’t sound real?

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@mattbrowne: A “doctor almost lost her license” for “refus[ing] to treat a boy named Jihad.” <== A long time ago I had a job offer in Germany and this kind of interference by the German government was one factor in my decision to decline the offer. I have had two native German employees and both have remarked at how much freer expression is in the USA.

mattbrowne's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish – Interference by the German government? Who said anything about that? Governments are part of the executive branch in free societies. Laws and bylaws are made by parliaments and regional councils often involving subject matter experts. Medicine is a huge field and it involves modern forms of the hippocratic oath. In fact Germany and the US is not that different in this respect. Doctors are required to help people.

Sorry to say this, but your view of Germany seems to be full of clichés created by ultra-conservative Americans. Believe me, all in all, the US is not a freer country than Germany. Both are pretty much the same. There are certain differences in the details, like restrictions of promoting Nazism or restrictions on public breastfeeding or selling vibrators. Where are 20-year-old people not free to drink one harmless bottle of beer? Ultra-conservatives Americans are often quite arrogant in their opinions about other countries. Well, first take out the bit of wood from your eye, then will you see clearly to take out the grain of dust from your brother’s eye.

A Germany pharmacy will lose its license if the owners refuse to sell contraceptives. People are free to buy contraceptives in every certified pharmacy. They can rely on this. Even when traveling. Avoiding unwanted pregnancies. A pharmacy owner in the US is free not to sell contraceptives so people cannot buy contraceptives in every pharmacy. If you count the plus and minuses of who is free or not it looks even to me.

cockswain's avatar

@mattbrowne do you really think you can get a rational debate going with this guy?

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – Yes, I do. Even conservative Americans must know that American doctors too can lose their license as a result of certain behavior. Or take lawyers. Losing a license or not has nothing to do with this strange notion of overly intrusive governments meddling arbitrarily. It’s people who make rules for people and we got to stick to them and do have the right to question and change them. The rule that a doctor must help all people in need is a good one in my opinion. We should keep it.

cockswain's avatar

Should you succeed I’ll be very, very impressed. By the way, as usual I’m in agreement with you.

snowberry's avatar

Going to a doctor is a very personal thing. I’d rather not go to someone who didn’t want to treat me.

See, I cleaned private homes for many years. It too is a very personal business. You have someone coming into your private place, handling your stuff, and so on. Why would you want someone in there who didn’t like you for WHATEVER reason? On my part, I refused to work for some people. Some of them I told why, and others I never bothered to, other than “I’m quitting”, or “no thank you. I won’t be available”. I don’t think this is as big a deal as eveyone says it is.

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry Would it strike you as a big deal if it started catching on? How about if most of the doctors in a given state decide they will only treat far right wingers, or far left wingers. How about if one class of people gets pretty much excluded for the classes that any doctors want to treat? Would that be no big deal?

snowberry's avatar

I’m not saying it’s a good idea or a bad idea.

Just that everyone has the right to refuse to treat. It’s a free market economy. You could say the same thing about ANYONE. Like, only left wingers get to buy gas, or only right wingers get to patronize grocery stores. I don’t think your question is practical, but that ‘s just me. I’d like to let it go.

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry Freedom does not extend to the right to discriminate. The fire department doesn’t have the right to refuse to fight house fires where the people living in the house are from a different race, or religion. Doctors and medical facilities do not have the right to refuse to treat people because of their prejudices either. This doctor didn’t go that far. He just put up a sign making it very clear that his political bigotry might compromise the care he gave if he discovered a patient voted differently than he would have them vote. But even that may cross the line with his state medical board. That remains to be seen.

snowberry's avatar

I dumped an OB/GYN who performed abortions on the side. I wish he had posted a notice about his extra curricular behavior somewhere. I had to dig to find it. I’m glad I found out about it before I allowed him to deliver my babes. A person like that is very confused.

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry I don’t see it that way at all. But if you do, then it certainly makes sense for you to find a doctor whose politics and practice you are comfortable with.

snowberry's avatar

You cannot compartmentalize life. What you do in one area of your life bleeds over into other areas. Even the most professional person can fail here, and I’ve seen it and experienced it. When they are working on your body, you’d best know. I often ask for my doctor’s religious views, abortion views, whatever. It does matter. You betcha!

ETpro's avatar

@snowberry I don’t feel an Ob?Gyn is doing something inately terrible by providing abortions where needed. Therefore, it would not make me wish to change doctors (if I were female and had a need for an ob-gyn of course). Nor do I care what my doctor’s religious beliefs are. I care how good my doctor is at practicing medicine. If you feel that what church your doc attends is the top selection criteria, that is fine with me. But don’t try to sell it to me as a point of logic. It’s not.

laureth's avatar

@ETpro – as I said up here, that’s just as slippery of a slope as “what if everyone was gay and then the population would die out, so no one should be gay.” Slightly more realistic, but only slightly.

@snowberry – Did you think he was so confused that he would abort your babies by mistake when you went in for delivery? Or that your babies’ future politics would be affected by the first man to touch them? I would fight for your right to not go to that doctor, but I don’t understand the logic.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@snowberry Out of curiosity, what would you do if the doctor refused to answer your questions about religious or abortion views? Would you find someone else? Would it be different if the doctor was someone who was recommended highly by others?

I’m asking because I usually don’t answer personal questions like that, especially from someone who is new to me.

snowberry's avatar

@laureth, that he might abort my kids by mistake, probably not, hopefully not, but I’ve heard of stranger things. Regardless, I don’t want to support someone who makes their money that way. So I vote with my feet.

@Dr Dredd, Actually I’ve had doctors who’ve been highly recommended, and I’ve walked. There are some things that simply are deal breakers for me. Extreme hubris is one.

I remember one time I was in the exam room pregnant out to here, and up in stirrups. My OB was finishing up, and I asked him a question. He got mad, threw his stuff on a table, turned out the lights, and slammed the door. An RN friend who worked in his hospital told me he had a real problem with his temper and was known to throw stuff in the delivery room too. There was speculation that he had marital problems and was not coping well. This is a perfect example of how bleed-over affects other parts of our lives. Doctors are just like anyone else. They have good days and bad days… Anyway, I’m glad I found out about him before the delivery.

I have since learned that if possible to always have a friend with me in the exam room as a witness. There’s a good chance that Dr. Tantrum would have had such a fit if I had brought a friend with me.

If you didn’t want to talk to me, you and I probably would not see eye to eye.

cockswain's avatar

@snowberry Could you describe the hypothetical situation in which a doctor who also performs abortions would mistakenly abort the child of a woman giving birth? Like, would the doctor just miss the large belly and screaming and just go on in there with his abortion devices? Just be all “Oh, never mind all that pre-natal care I’ve given you all these months…”

snowberry's avatar

@cockswain, I don’t know, and I don’t care to elaborate. As I said already, I don’t want to support someone with that view. So I vote with my feet.

snowberry's avatar

Sorry, Just caught the typo. I meant:

There’s a good chance that Dr. Tantrum would not have thrown his fit if I had brought a friend with me.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@snowberry That’s cool. Diff’rent strokes, and all that. Anyway, it’s not that I don’t talk to people, it’s just that I’d prefer not to reveal personal info.

And yes, Dr. Tantrum does sound like a real jerk. But with an ego like that, even an extra witness may not have stopped him! :-)

snowberry's avatar

@Dr Dredd, Nope, but it would give me additional credibility when I reported him to the medical board, AND my health insurance people, AND the hospital administration where he worked, AND anywhere else I could think of. :o)

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