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Doctors Refusing to Treat Patients

January 13, 1988

At first inspection, Richard M. Restak's article ("Requiring Doctors to Treat AIDS Victims Invites Flawed and Hostile Care," Op-Ed, Dec. 30) appears to carry a valid point when he decries the decision of the American Medical Assn. that it is unethical for a doctor to refuse care of an AIDS patient: no patient should want to be treated by someone harboring hostility toward that individual.

Yet, Restak's opinion is based on the assumption that people with AIDS, when refused care by one physician, can simply go elsewhere for medical treatment. Circumstances such as restricted location and mobility, draining financial resources, and lack of time often prohibit AIDS patients from simply "shopping around" for a new doctor.

It seems fair that a terminally ill patient may be refused treatment by a doctor who feels it is beyond his realm of specialization, qualification, etc. (if a referral is provided).

However, for a physician to refuse care to a dying patient simply based on the irrational fears or feelings of that physician is abhorrent and dangerous. If Restak feels that it is a physician's right to do so, I must turn his own question around: Where will it stop and how many individuals' civil rights will be violated in the process?

I must question exactly what Restak feels the AMA's role is to a physician, if not to provide an outline of ethics for medical care. I sense that this particular physician is harboring a little too much hostility of his own.

DAVID P. WARREN

San Diego

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