One-third of docs would like to cherry-pick patients

More than a third of doctors say they would like to “cherry-pick” patients to avoid treating those with comorbidities or ones that would avoid prescribed regimens, according to a new study.

Most (63%) of the 7,500 respondents to Medscape Medical News’ recent physician ethics survey (reg. req.) said they would not be selective with patients, while 17% said they would they would definitely be selective and 20% said it would depend on the situation.

Whether cherry-picking crosses an ethical line is a complex question to answer, according to an article (reg. req.) from Medscape. The practice isn’t outlawed, and the American Medical Association’s most recent ethical guidelines (PDF) are ambiguous, saying only that doctors are not “ethically required” to take on every patient. Still, it calls on physicians to restrict such rejections to “certain limited circumstances." 

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But some doctors say the practice crosses a clear line, including Jim Bailey, M.D., director of the Center for Health System Improvement at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

"These practices go directly against the central tenet of the Hippocratic Oath, which says, 'Into whatever houses I enter, I will go for the benefit of the sick,'" he told the publication.

Medscape’s survey also found changing attitudes on issues like dating patients, and whether it’s acceptable to reject an expensive treatment that may not be covered by insurance solely on those grounds.