When to Discontinue a Clinical Patient Relationship

For a clinical doctor/patient relationship to work effectively, it requires the trust of both parties.

 Occasionally relationships may not work out as planned and medical or health practitioners may find themselves in a situation where the ability to manage and care for a patient is compromised irretrievably.

Prior to ceasing care there are a number of strategies that should be considered. Adopting these may help avoid future complaints or claims.

Set clear boundaries up front

Doctors should be clear with their patients about their scope of practice and the boundaries that guide them. Ensuring that your patients are well informed will place you in the best position should circumstances arise that lead you to considering discontinuing your patient’s care.

Medico-Legal Support

As medical indemnity insurance providers in Australia, Tego is here to help and offers 24/7 medico-legal support. We understand the business of patient care can be complicated, but it is essential to keep up to date with changes that may affect the way you go about your practice of medicine – and when in doubt call your medical indemnity insurer for advice and support. 

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Know when it is appropriate to discontinue care

A medical practitioner may discontinue care of a client except for during urgent situations where emergency care is required. We recommend that you meet with colleagues, other health practitioners and other team members, as appropriate, to discuss the difficulties you are having and seek advice on how best to manage them. Document these discussions.

Refusing advice or care

Your patients can refuse to accept your advice or care if they are ‘competent’ (i.e. they have capacity to make decisions), even if their decision seems unreasonable to you or your colleagues. 


Set up a specific appointment and take the time to express your concern about the situation to the patient. Make the basis for your advice clear as well as the potential consequences of not following it.  Consider providing written material so the patient can take time to consider their decision. Confirm your advice, your concerns and the potential consequences, in writing.

Thorough Documentation is Imperative

Comprehensive documentation, including when your advice is not followed, will assist you to justify your decision if called upon to do so.

We are here to help

Tego Insurance offers medical indemnity insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, gp medical indemnity insurance, medical practice insurance, medical malpractice insurance and more.

We have a profound understanding of the Australian medical profession and the ever-changing midwife industry. It’s this expertise that allows us to provide leading cover with more choice, innovation and greater flexibility. Contact us to find out more.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss su­ffered in connection with the use of this information.