When a dismissed patient needs meds

November 4, 2005

If I terminate a patient by a certified letter, and she doesn't find a new physician within 30 days, can I be held liable for any harm she might suffer when her prescriptions run out?

Q: If I terminate a patient by a certified letter, and she doesn't find a new physician within 30 days, can I be held liable for any harm she might suffer when her prescriptions run out?

A: Probably not, if you terminate the physician-patient relationship properly. This requires caution. You must tell the patient that she needs to find another doctor who will assume her care. You must warn her that failure to take her medication will cause her harm. And you must advise her that if she hasn't found a new physician after 30 days, she should to go to the nearest ED if she has any problems. And all of that should be put in writing.

You might consider a short renewal-sufficient medication for 10 to 14 days-if she calls you after the 30-days have run out. But think twice before providing a script with multiple renewals; that might only encourage her to put off selecting a new physician.