Canada

Quit smoking or find another doctor: Manitoba physician

A Winnipeg doctor says he will no longer treat patients who refuse to quit smoking.

Dr. Frederick Ross says his patients have until Friday to either butt out, or find themselves a new doctor.

"Basically what I'm saying is: time's up. Find another physician because I'm too frustrated dealing with your smoking related illness and you're not being a partner in your own health care."

Some smokers think Dr. Ross is taking an extreme step. But since he fired off his warning letter to patients in December, only a handful have walked away.

On the other side of the argument, he estimates at least 30 have committed to butting out.

"I think it's good. It's scaring me because he's a good doctor and I like him so I don't have any choice but to quit smoking," said patient Dean Short.

Some health care advocates say doctors shouldn't force their patients to do anything. Calling it a dangerous precedent, they point to patients who contract HIV from intravenous drug use, and wonder if doctors will begin to refuse additional treatments.

"It's very scary, because it leaves it open to a whole set of abuses in terms of doctors picking and choosing their clients," said Shirley Lord of the Manitoba Medicare Alert Coalition.

But the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons says doctors are already doing that. "It's not uncommon for physicians to say under certain circumstances I'm not prepared to treat certain kinds of patients," said Dr. Bill Pope of the college.

Dr. Ross says all he's trying to do is help his patients in the best way he can think of.