Doctors have a duty of care to their patients in terms of providing them with the appropriate treatment and care. They are held to a minimum standard. Failing to provide this could result in the patient seeking help from a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to secure compensation for the doctor’s negligence. However, does this duty of care require a doctor to provide care to any patient who asks? Let’s explore this concept!

Understanding the Patient-Doctor Relationship

If a patient consults with the same doctor reasonably regularly, they are entering into a patient-doctor relationship. This can be important in making sure that the patient receives adequate treatments on an acceptable timeline. The relationship will be formally established when the doctor agrees to treat the patient. There are some situations where a doctor may decide to terminate this relationship, and they are within their rights to do so; however, the method by which the relationship is terminated will determine whether it is legal or if the patient has grounds to consult a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville due to patient abandonment.

What is Patient Abandonment?

Patient abandonment is considered a form of medical malpractice. It can have a detrimental impact on a patient in terms of interrupting their medical care, especially if they are undergoing long-term treatment. There are some situations where a doctor can legally terminate a patient-doctor relationship if they have a legitimate reason to do so. Still, it is important to follow the correct procedures and, most importantly, to give the patient sufficient notice to make alternative arrangements. If the doctor or any other healthcare provider abandons the patient-doctor relationship without notice or reason for termination, then it can be considered patient abandonment. A medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville could help the patient file a lawsuit.

A number of conditions must be met for a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to pursue a patient abandonment lawsuit. These conditions are:

  • The relationship must have been pre-existing and well established in that the doctor will have already agreed to treat the patient and started with a course of treatment.
  • The abandoned patient must be in need of ongoing healthcare. This could mean the continuation of an ongoing treatment plan that has already been started or a continued investigation to diagnose an ongoing condition.
  • In order to claim patient abandonment, there must be evidence that the termination of the relationship was abrupt and left no time to find an alternative provider to continue with their treatment plan.
  • In order for a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to follow up on filing a patient abandonment lawsuit, there must be evidence that the abandonment resulted in injury to the patient. For example, the patient’s condition may have worsened due to the inability to continue treatment or obtain an appropriate prescription.

What Can’t Be Considered Patient Abandonment?

There will be some occasions where it is necessary and legal for a doctor to end their relationship with a patient. In these circumstances, it does not constitute patient abandonment and is therefore not considered to be medical malpractice. Some of the situations where a patient-doctor relationship can be terminated without resulting in patient abandonment include the following:

  • If the doctor does not treat the specific condition. Sometimes, a patient may be diagnosed with something that the doctor is not qualified to treat. Therefore, they can legally terminate the relationship with the patient if they give notice and allow the patient to find a more appropriate healthcare provider.
  • If continuing the relationship would be unethical. If the healthcare professional believes they would face ethical or legal consequences if they continue the treatment of a patient, they may terminate the relationship.
  • If there is limited access to resources. Suppose a doctor believes they do not have access to the appropriate resources needed to meet the necessary duty of care when treating a patient. In that case, they can end the relationship and have the patient seek an alternative provider with the correct resources.
  • If the patient misses their appointments. When a patient cancels or misses an excessive number of their scheduled appointments, a doctor may terminate the patient-doctor relationship as this is blocking other patients from receiving care.
  • If the patient behaves inappropriately. If a patient behaves inappropriately, it is grounds for immediate termination. This can include verbal and physical abuse or sexual harassment.
  • If the patient refuses to follow the doctor’s advice. Suppose the patient refuses to follow the doctor’s advice and treatment plan. In that case, the doctor can opt to terminate the relationship since the patient will not improve unless they actively participate in the treatment plan.

If you believe that you may be a victim of patient abandonment, talk with a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville today and find out if you could file a lawsuit.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at or call 865-637-3531.

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