Refusal to provide medical treatment

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Refusal to give medical care
Denial of access to prescription medication
Denial of prescription drugs

Refusal to provide medical treatment can arise for a number of reasons, including financial and resource limitations. An increasing number of doctors and dentists are refusing to treat certain kinds of patients because of increased financial and physical risk. Particularly the risk of contracting AIDS and the risk of law suits for accidental death or disability are causing medical practitioners to select patients more carefully.

Governments cut out or ration ever more health services as costs rise. In Britain as of 1995, dental and optical services were no longer offered as part of the national health service. Elderly patients can be refused dialysis due to their age, because prolonging lives is not the best use of money after a certain age, according to the authorities who control the health services purse strings.

In other cases, physicians are wary of prescribing medication whose risks are equal or greater than the initial medical complication. Many argue it is the patient's right to decide which medical risks she should or should not take.


The British Medical Association has reported several cases in which patients had had their operations postponed or treatment withheld because they were committed smokers. By 1991, several British doctors refused to prescribe new thrombolytic drugs demonstrated to reduce risk of death in heart attack victims. Despite findings that the new medications were 25% more effective in death prevention, some doctors feared the drugs' slight risk of provoking internal bleeding and stroke. As a result, many heart patients and their families were outraged at medical denial of what seemed to be life-saving drugs.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST