What is Medical Abandonment, and How Could it Affect Your License?


Medical abandonment, also known as patient abandonment, happens when a doctor terminates the doctor-patient relationship without giving his or her reasonable patient notice, reasoning, and a reasonable opportunity to find a suitable replacement to continue treatment. Medical abandonment by a doctor can lead to a medical malpractice claim, and it can also lead to disciplinary proceedings against the doctor’s medical license.

Four main elements must be proven to be successful against a physician for medical abandonment; they are:

  1. There must be an established doctor-patient relationship.
  2. The abandonment of the patient must have occurred during a “critical stage” of treatment.
  3. The abandonment of the patient must have happened so suddenly that the patient could not find another suitable doctor to continue treatment.
  4. The patient must have suffered an injury directly because of the abandonment by the doctor.

If you are a medical professional who is either having to make a choice to terminate a physician/patient relationship, or you are facing a potential claim for medical abandonment, it is crucial to immediately seek the advice of an experienced California professional license defense attorney.


A wide variety of situations where a doctor can discontinue treatment of a specific patient without facing liability for medical malpractice; they include:

  • A doctor being unable to administer treatment to a patient due to a lack of skill in the area or due to a lack of medical supplies or resources.
  • Ethical or legal conflicts that require a doctor to discontinue treatment
  • A patient violating a doctor’s policies, including repeated canceled or missed appointments
  • A patient refusing to comply with medical recommendations and
  • A patient is acting inappropriately, either making sexual comments or advances or abusing the doctor or any staff member verbally or physically.

A doctor facing a situation like any listed above can appropriately terminate the doctor-patient relationship by giving the patient written notice, which includes the reason for the termination. If continued treatment is possible, the doctor should continue treatment until alternative care is secured. You should consult an attorney prior to terminating a client as the factors above are merely examples, and no situation is black and white or the same.


A claim of medical or patient abandonment, even if untrue, can significantly impact your medical license. The simple act of a patient making a claim against you, whatever the motivation, starts the process of an investigation that can affect your license, reputation, and future as a medical professional. A claim of medical abandonment can also lead to financial liability under a claim of medical malpractice. This can lead to significant damages if your client claims they were considerably harmed because of the doctor’s medical abandonment. If you or a loved one faces a potential medical abandonment claim that could affect your professional license, then you must seek the advice of an experienced professional license defense attorney as soon as possible.


The SJ Harris Law Office is proud to offer FREE consultations to all prospective clients. We realize that professionals who are facing discipline against their professional licenses require representation that affords them proper discretion and privacy. Anything discussed during a consultation will be protected by attorney-client privilege even if you don’t hire us to represent you further. At SJ Harris Law, we focus on preserving three things; your license, reputation, and future. Let our experience go to work for you today. Call us at (310) 361-8585 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Attorney Advertisement

This blog is meant to be informational. It is not meant to be all-encompassing legal advice. If you are facing a situation involving your professional license, seek counsel from a licensed attorney.