THREE weeks ago 67-year-old John Boakes learned he had a potentially fatal heart condition that required the attention of a Brisbane-based cardiologist.

News that one of the arteries joining his heart could be blocked had surprised Mr Boakes, but it was the phone call he received a fortnight later that left him speechless.

A cardiologist working out of Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital had been asked by a Lismore colleague to call Mr Boakes at his Tyndale home last week to arrange an appointment for an angiogram.

The angiogram would reveal the extent of Mr Boakes' blockage and determine whether he would need immediate surgery to correct it.

During the course of the conversation, Mr Boakes said he advised the doctor that he had been a smoker all his life.

When asked by the doctor whether he could give up smoking for the sake of the procedure, Mr Boakes said he could not.

According to Mr Boakes, the doctor then refused to make the appointment, telling him he could not treat someone who refused to help themselves. Mr Boakes said the phone call then ended without an offer by the doctor to make a referral to another doctor.

"I was flabbergasted really, I didn't know what to say," he said.

"It's not as if I want to smoke, but I just can't give up at this stage of my life, it would drive me crazy."

But while the refusal for treatment has surprised Mr Boakes, it has angered his daughter Fiona Clarke who has difficulty explaining to her three children that doctors have refused to help their grandfather.

"It really peeves me off because, yes my dad smokes ... but what right does anyone have to decide whose life is worth saving," she said.

"Dad lives with us and I'm worried the kids might get up to see him one morning and find him dead.

"My children will all argue that their grandad's life is worth saving."

The Daily Examiner was unable to contact the cardiologist who refused Mr Boakes a consultation for the angiogram.

A Maclean doctor familiar with Mr Boakes' medical condition declined to offer comment on the ethical questions raised by the Brisbane cardiologist's refusal to deal with his patient.

Calls to the Lismore cardiologist who referred Mr Boakes to the Brisbane-based specialist were not returned.

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