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Doctor advises Obama voters to 'seek care elsewhere'

A Florida urologist says he won't turn away anyone, but a sign on his door makes clear his disgust with healthcare-bill backers.

April 04, 2010|By Stephen Hudak

Reporting from Mount Dora, Fla. — A Florida doctor who considers the national healthcare overhaul bad medicine has posted a sign on his office door telling patients who voted for President Obama to seek care elsewhere.

"I'm not turning anybody away -- that would be unethical," said Dr. Jack Cassell, 56, a Mount Dora urologist and a registered Republican. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it."

The sign says: "If you voted for Obama . . . seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years."

Cassell may be walking a thin line between his right to free speech and his professional obligation, said William Allen, professor of bioethics, law and medical professionalism at the University of Florida's College of Medicine.

Allen said doctors cannot refuse patients on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability, but political preference is not one of the legally protected categories specified in civil-rights law.

By insisting he does not ask his patients about their politics and has not turned away patients based on their votes, the doctor is "trying to hold onto the nub of his ethical obligation," Allen said. "But this is pushing the limit."

Cassell, who has practiced medicine in Republican-dominated Lake County since 1988, said he doesn't quiz his patients about their politics, but he also won't hide his disdain for the bill Obama signed and the lawmakers who passed it.

In his waiting room, Cassell has provided his patients with photocopies of a healthcare timeline produced by Republican leaders that outlines "major provisions" in the healthcare package.

The doctor put a sign above the stack of copies that reads: "This is what the morons in Washington have done to your healthcare. Take one, read it and vote out anyone who voted for it."

Cassell said three patients have complained, but most have been "overwhelmingly supportive."

"They know it's not good for them," he said.

Cassell said a patient's politics would not affect his care for that person, although he said he would prefer not to treat people who support the president.

"I can at least make a point," he said.

Allen said the sign could cause some patients to question Cassell's judgment or fret about the care they might receive if they don't share his political views. He said doctors are wise to avoid public expressions that can affect the physician-patient relationship.

Erin VanSickle, spokeswoman for the Florida Medical Assn., would not comment specifically. But she said in an e-mail that "physicians are extended the same rights to free speech as every other citizen in the United States."

shudak@orlandosentinel.com

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