Is it legal for a Laboratory to withhold results from the ordering provider until a self pay patient pays their bill in full?

  • 1
    In almost two decades in medicine and I've never seen this. I'm not sure if it's legal (researching now), but it certainly unethical. If it's a chain, I would be on the phone to their corporate office and my state health department asap.
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 0:17
  • @Michael it depends on the test, and indeed, there might be a huge ethical problem, but for absolutely non-necessary tests.
    – Trish
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 9:38

1 Answer 1


Depends on the contract

This entirely depends on the contract, and technically even if you ordered it or the doctor - who might have credit with the lab and bills you in return.

However, depending on the contract you might have agreed to payment being due before being allowed to get the result. Read the contract. It is relevant what is written there: who is the actual party to the contract and under what modalities do the results get to whom?

  • If you ordered, you are entitled to the results under the contract with the lab.
  • If the doc ordered, you are not entitled to results from the lab, the doctor is. You are entitled only to results from the doctor from your treatment contract with the doctor.

Do note, that in either case, when you are entitled to the results is spelled out there. It could be "Once available" or "Once paid" or even "by specified date".

Ethical Rules?

Depending on the type of test done, there might or might not be an ethical problem:

There is nothing life-threatening in a paternity test, waiting for the results until the bill is paid wouldn't be at best distressing, but usually not in a manner that would be unethical.

An HIV-test or one for other STDs is quite life-changing, and not telling those results could endanger the person or their close kin. Not giving the results of such a life-changing test might be a breach of the duties of a medical service supplier. These however are spelled out by the relevant medical communities.

  • The question says that the doctor ordered them and the lab is withholding from the doctor, not the patient.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 17 at 16:40
  • @Barmar still, what does the contract say? That's what litigation will hinge on.
    – Trish
    Commented May 17 at 16:49
  • Of course. Just pointing out that the question addresses which of your bullet items applies.
    – Barmar
    Commented May 17 at 16:50

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