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Nonabandonment: An Old Obligation Revisited

Edmund D. Pellegrino, MD
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Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057 Requests for Reprints: Document Services, National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1995;122(5):377-378. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-122-5-199503010-00010
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In medical ethics, the term “abandonment” has customarily meant unilateral withdrawal by a physician from a patient's care without first formally transferring that care to another qualified physician who is acceptable to the patient. Abandonment means leaving the patient without care. As such, abandonment has been universally condemned as a serious and punishable infraction of both the legal and ethical obligations that physicians owe patients. Its converse, nonabandonment, is therefore a fundamental ethical obligation of physicians once patient and physician mutually consent to enter into a relationship.

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