When it comes to our children, there's little us parents won't do to ensure they are treated by a competent, caring doctor and are receiving the best treatment available. But what happens when you finally find the right pediatrician, only to be turned away? Turns out, there are a few main reasons pediatricians reject patients that every parent should be made aware of. You never know when you'll be searching for the right doctor, and being armed with as much information as possible can only help the process along.
According to a survey published in the journal Pediatrics, 1 in 5 pediatricians reject patients. The main reason? Parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. According to CBS News, the largest U.S. measles outbreak in recent history occurred in 2014 in Ohio's Amish Country — with a reported 383 unvaccinated people — because Amish missionaries were traveling outside the U.S. and returning with the measles virus. Then, in December of the same year, a measles outbreak at Disneyland occurred, when one affected child spread the virus to dozens more. So doctors feel the pressure to dismiss patients when their parents choose not to vaccinate, so those parents don't expose their unvaccinated children to others. According to The Chicago Tribune, there's still more research to be done as to whether or not parents dropped from pediatric care go on to eventually get the vaccinations, or if they remain steadfast in their initial decision, but either way: treating unvaccinated children is a risk more and more pediatricians are unwilling to take.
Of course, no two doctors or two families are the same, so simply asking a pediatrician why they've refused service is worthwhile. The bottom line is, patients are rejected all the time and, sometimes, those patients are children. It all comes down to each doctor's (or family practice's) personal code of ethics. So with that in mind, here are a few reasons why a pediatrician might turn a child away:
As previously stated, the main reason for patient rejection is a parent's choice not to vaccinate his or her kids. A lot of doctors feel responsible for keeping the rest of their clientele safe, and that includes limiting their exposure to otherwise preventable diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) doesn't endorse patient dismissal for refusing vaccinations, but doctors still continue to do so at their own discretion.
In one study published by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, conducted over a 12-month period, out of 1,004 randomly selected physicians, 39 percent reject patients for not vaccinating at all, and 28 percent suggested their patients were opposed to certain vaccinations, but not all.
So if you're among those who don't vaccinate your children, you could be dropped from your pediatrician.
Sometimes, a doctor and their patient just don't click. And if that patient happens to be a child, and the child's parents are particularly difficult, a doctor could decide not to treat that child. Doctors may put up with disruptive behavior for a while — by making appointments shorter or suggest a referral so the parents can switch health care providers — but sometimes the best thing to do, for both doctor, patient, and parent, is to part ways.
VeryWell.com reports it's a seller's market, meaning there's a shortage of good physicians and an abundance of patients in need of care, so a doctor probably feels comfortable saying "on to the next one." They same sites goes on to add that if rejected, good patients will try to understand why, correct their behavior, and curb the unsettling behavior when communicating with future doctors.
Privately-owned physicians and hospitals are inundated with new patients all the time, and they can't see everyone that seeks out their services. It's certainly possible a pediatrician may turn you away because he or she can't accept any new patients. Just keep in mind that if the doctor is part of the public health system, which is tax-payer-funded, you're protected by the Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) — specifically if you're uninsured (or don't have the means to pay) and it's truly a medical emergency for your child.
Discrimination due to race, ethnicity, religion, and/or sex is illegal, though Professor Holly Fernandez Lynch, J.D., M. tells the New England Journal of Medicine that physicians are "susceptible to internal biases," which could keep them from giving the best care to specific patients. The report adds that the "American Medical Association's Ethical Rule 10.05 permits refusal of services that are beyond the physician's competence, not medically indicated, or incompatible with the physician's personal, religious, or moral beliefs." In other words, doctors aren't supposed to refuse care for patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other criteria that would constitute invidious discrimination, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
In January of 2017, a U.S. District judge ruled doctors can now refuse treatment to women who've had a past abortion, or transgender people, for "imposing a burden" on each doctor's right to exercise religious freedom. While that has little to do with pediatrician's, per se, it creates an opening for discrimination across the board. For instance, Realtor Cheryl Bray tells SELF about her experience with a doctor who refused to continue treatment when it was revealed she was adopting a child from Mexico while she was unmarried. The doctor in question cited it was "against his moral belief that a child should have two parental units," and that "such religious beliefs are a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States." Likewise, the same could happen to same-sex couples who want their child seen. If the doctor doesn't agree with their personal life choices, they might refuse service in the name of "religious freedom."
Again, with privately-owned pediatricians, they have the right to deny new patients or existing patients who haven't paid their bills. With publicly-funded health clinics and/or hospitals, a doctor can't refuse you care for lack of insurance or ability to pay. Your child must be seen.
With nearly 9 million children insured through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — low cost health insurance for families with low to moderate incomes — and funding set to expire, there may be more and more children in need of medical treatment that won't receive it if their family can't afford to add them to an existing insurance plan. Checkups, immunizations, and pediatric preventative care shouldn't be dismissed due to inability to pay, and yet, sadly, it's happening. In the year 2018, it's still happening.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.