Ask ECRI: Can Physicians Refuse to See Unvaccinated Patients?

October 4, 2021 | Ambulatory Care Risk Management


​​​​A member recently asked about doctors in physician practices who are considering refusing to see patients who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

ECRI notes that individual physicians who have said they will refuse to see patients who are medically eligible but have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, by either refusing to see them at all or refusing to see them except via telehealth, have received media attention. See, for example, articles from NBC News, Alabama Doctor Pledges to Stop Treating Unvaccinated Patients, and USA Today,Florida Doctor to Refuse In-Person Treatment for Unvaccinated Patients. However, physicians should carefully consider the legal, ethical, and practical implications of such an approach.

Physicians must take care not to discriminate based on legally protected factors, as discussed in With COVID-19 Infections Surging, Can Doctors Refuse Treatment to Unvaccinated Patients?, an article from Northeastern University. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits excluding people from participating in federal healthcare programs based on race, color, or national origin or discriminating against people on such basis in any activity that receives federal financial assistance. (42 U.S.C. § 2000d). Similarly, Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race,...

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