Can a Doctor Who Refuses to See an Unvaccinated Child Be Liable for Medical Malpractice?
One of the largest medical debates in the country today is that regarding vaccinations. While most in the United States—including the vast majority of health, medical, and scientific professionals—agree that all children should receive routine vaccinations, there are a growing number of parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children for religious or personal reasons. But in the wake of disease outbreaks that are a result of a lack of vaccinations, many physicians against the U.S. are closing their clinics’ doors to unvaccinated children. Parents of children who are unvaccinated are asking: “Is a doctor legally permitted to refuse to treat my child?”
Why Doctors Choose to Not Treat Unvaccinated Children
The decision to not treat unvaccinated children is not an easy one. For many pediatricians, refusing unvaccinated children is an emotional decision as well as a moral one. However, the decision is made in the best interest of other children. According to Dr. Charles Goodman, quoted by the Los Angeles Times and whose practice recently implemented a new policy that it will only see children who, by 18 months of age, are vaccinated, “We decided that the patients who are not vaccinated are presenting a clear and present danger.” Dr. Eric Ball, another pediatrician in the area, told reporters that “it is not OK” for families to choose not to vaccinate their children, and creates a public health concern.
But Is It Okay for Doctors to Refuse Patients?
As stated above, the decision to refuse to treat a patient certainly poses an ethical debate, but it probably does not present a legal one. This is, of course, assuming that the practices or hospitals are privately owned. Privately owned medical clinics are allowed to turn away patients in non-emergency situations. However, refusing to treat a patient at a public health institution is not permitted.
You have the right to refuse a vaccination for religious reasons in Massachusetts, but not philosophical ones. If your child’s pediatrician refuses to treat your child because your child is unvaccinated, he or she is most likely within their rights, and has not committed an act of malpractice. Medical malpractice only occurs when the healthcare provides causes harm by violating the standard of care that is owed to a patient.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you are unsure whether or not your pediatrician has committed an act of medical malpractice, but are sure that your child has suffered harm as a direct result of the pediatrician’s actions, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. At Lovenberg & Associates, P.C., Boston medical malpractice attorney Douglas Lovenberg will review your case for free. If our law firm believes that you have a medical malpractice claim for damages, we will do everything that we can to move your case forward. To request your consultation today, contact us now at 617-973-9950.