What Is a Medical Exemption?

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  • Written By: David Bishop
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2018
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A medical exemption is a waiver, usually issued by a medical professional, which allows a person to be excused from an activity that may cause injury or aggravate an existing condition. Common situations involving a medical exemption include physical education (P.E.) classes, military training and labor-intensive occupations. Most waivers are related to physical injuries or ailments but also can be issued for psychological issues. Some countries grant medical exemption certificates for free prescription drugs to patients suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy. Many organizations require a signed document from a board-certified physician before allowing the waiver.

Public school systems in the United States typically will require a note from a doctor before exempting a student from P.E. or allowing him to miss extended class time. Some schools require the doctor to indicate the student's condition and give a period of recovery. In the case of chronic illness or physical handicaps, exemptions are generally granted for the entire school year. Waivers for P.E. classes have received closer scrutiny since childhood obesity became a widespread problem.


In countries that maintain compulsory military service, a medical exemption is one of the only ways to excuse a person from serving. People with previously diagnosed conditions may present a document from a doctor, while others may be exempted by a health screen before entering basic training. Falsifying an exemption or attempting to defraud the state to get out of military training is a serious crime in most countries. Medical waivers can also be issued within the military for soldiers who receive injuries and need time off from training to recover.

Handling of medical exemptions within the workplace varies greatly depending on company policy and the laws of the relevant governments. Some companies may fire an injured person if he is unable to perform his work. In other situations, the employee’s contract or workplace regulations may allow him to present an exemption and avoid certain kinds of physical labor. If the employee was injured on the job, the company may allow him to do other work while he heals from his injury.

Medical exemptions are used in many others situations to excuse people from laws and regulations that effect the rest of the population. Some governments waive seat belt laws for people who can’t safely or comfortably wear them after surgery or because of a chronic condition. Governments also may give permission to handicapped people to utilize specific reserved parking spaces and other special services.



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