When a Doctor Fires You
Last updated: June 2022
I've been fired by a doctor twice in my lifetime, once during a pregnancy and once in the midst of my Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) treatment. I was surprised each time but wasn't all that upset because the relationship had soured long before the actual firing. The way that each experience happened, though, was something to note and what I want to share about.
First time I was fired
The first time I was fired by a doctor was during my second pregnancy. My first pregnancy had ended in a scheduled C-section; scheduled to accommodate my doctor's vacation schedule and was treated as a foregone conclusion about halfway through my pregnancy.
We'd worked really hard to get pregnant, not just in the bedroom, but with fertility medication to address my hormonal imbalances so the only explanation I have for our going along with things we didn't want was lack of information and, frankly, sheer terror at the possibility of losing a child we'd worked so hard to bring into the world.
And then I got pregnant again. Yes, we had to go through fertility treatments -- shots this time since I refused to give up breastfeeding (you can see the seeds of rebellion here). When my doctor (the same one from the first pregnancy) announced that I had to have a second C-section, I bristled a little.
I did my research, I talked to a lot of people, and I came back to him with articles and requests. He sat down with me, explained that he couldn't be my doctor, handed me my records, and told me that he'd be responsible for my care for 30 days as I looked for another doctor.
What to know about doctors' legal requirements
Let me just pause and say that these things he told me were the minimum legal requirements in Florida, where I live and are the minimum legal requirements in most states. If a doctor wants/needs to discharge a patient from their practice, these are the things they have to do or face sanctions.
It makes me so mad when I see people post about being fired by a doctor and the doctor acts as those these minimum requirements are a favor to the patient when that's likely not the case. Knowing what your doctor is required ethically to do for you as you transition to another practice is key.
In the situation with my second son, I found a different doctor who had a midwife on staff and would allow me a "trial by labor," i.e., to try to give birth without medical intervention. My second son got himself all tangled up in the umbilical cord and we ended up in emergency surgery after 26 hours of labor, including 6 of unmedicated back labor that made me rethink everything.
Thankful for two healthy boys that we worked hard to bring into the world and while my second son's entrance wasn't ideal, he has proven to be unique in every other way as well, so clearly, that was also meant to be.
The second time I was fired
The second time I was fired was during my MBC treatment by a non-oncology doctor. For a few years, I took medication to manage the cancer in my bones that caused hyperglycemia. My medical oncologist had no experience with managing glucose levels and so she sent me to a community endocrinologist.
No one knew much about the medication then (something that has changed since 2019) and so we were all learning together. What happened in that office was that once I had to deal with the staff and the procedures and protocols, what I needed didn't fit with their practice.
Especially when Covid hit, I didn't want to come in as often as they normally required, and I pushed back when asked, I explained that I was different as an immunocompromised terminal cancer patient. Eventually, having to navigate my needs and requirements to stay safe felt too risky to that doctor and because I have an able primary care physician, he decided to hand me off to her.
Again, I was given access to my records (I didn't need them) and there was that 30-day time period where he refilled my medication and oversaw my care.
Bottom line? It does suck to be told that a doctor doesn't want to treat you. It's humbling and it's often infuriating. Sometimes, though, sometimes it shows us that we're not a good fit for a practice.
As I got more comfortable with advocating for myself and communicating my boundaries, I saw that many medical professionals aren't ok with that. Many doctors and medical practices have their own protocols and procedures and to deviate is too difficult. When a requested deviation is about keeping me safe, it's a non-negotiable with me.
And sometimes being fired is a good thing.
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