Is It An Automatic Stay Violation If Doctor Refuses To Treat Bankrupt Patient Unless He Pays Doctor's Pre-Petition Medical Bill?

Here’s an interesting issue that circulated on a bankruptcy attorney listserv. A debtor files bankruptcy because he cannot pay credit card and medical bills. After he files his petition, he returns to one of his doctors for treatment on an ongoing illness. The debtor had listed on his bankruptcy schedules a bill to same doctor for treatment rendered and billed prior to the bankruptcy. The doctor says he will not further treat the debtor’s illness until and unless the debtor pays the doctor’s past due bill.

The doctor’s position is common sense. Why should a doctor, or anyone else, continue providing services to a patient who has not paid bills for the prior services? The issue is whether the doctor’s insistence on payment of a bill listed on the debtor’s petition is an illegal violation of the bankruptcy stay.

One of the listserv attorneys found a case on this issue decided 25 years ago. A bankruptcy court held that a physician’s service contingent upon payment of a scheduled prior medical bill violated the automatic stay and entitled the debtor to an award of sanctions against the physician. The court said the physician was free to simply deny treatment to the bankruptcy patient, but he could not leverage his professional services to compel payment of a discharged medical debt. 38 B.R. 515







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