Ethical, legal aspects of docs' discrimination discussed

May 3, 2013
Ethical, legal aspects of docs' discrimination discussed
Recent examples of doctors refusing to treat certain patients on questionable grounds, including their weight, have triggered discussion of discrimination among doctors, according to a perspective piece published in the May 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

(HealthDay)—Recent examples of doctors refusing to treat certain patients on questionable grounds, including their weight, have triggered discussion of discrimination among doctors, according to a perspective piece published in the May 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Holly Fernandez Lynch, J.D., from Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., discusses the ethical and legal issues surrounding doctors' refusal to treat based on factors including a patient's , refusal to vaccinate, or weight.

The author notes that the American Medical Association's Ethical Rule emphasizes that physicians "cannot refuse to care for patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, , or any other criteria that would constitute invidious discrimination." Legal standards are in accordance with this rule and generally prohibit discrimination based on grounds such as race, religion, sex, and disability. However, the rejection of patients based on engaging in risky behavior such as smoking or because they are obese is legally within the realm of physician discretion. There have been recent calls for weight to be treated as a protected category under civil rights laws. Alternatively, obesity could quality as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would prevent doctors from rejecting prospective patients for being obese.

"Fortunately, most physicians take this tradition [of helping people in need] and their professional obligations seriously, and overt discrimination is rare," Fernandez Lynch writes. "Evidence suggests, however, that even medical professionals are susceptible to implicit biases based on race, social class, sex, weight, and myriad other factors that may affect the care they provide."

Explore further: Weight-loss counseling most prevalent between male physicians and obese men

More information: Full Text

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sleep loss detrimental to blood vessels

April 22, 2016

Lack of sleep has previously been found to impact the activation of the immune system, inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism and the hormones that regulate appetite. Now University of Helsinki researchers have found that ...

Lowered birth rates one reason why women outlive men

April 18, 2016

Using unique demographic records on 140,600 reproducing individuals from the Utah Population Database, a research team led from Uppsala University has come to the conclusion that lowered birth rates are one reason why women ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.