Depending on your situation, the decision to discharge you from a hospital can be complex, especially if you’re older, have multiple medical conditions, and your ability to care for yourself is uncertain. If the situation is extreme and you suffered harm because of an early discharge, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim.
It’s Common for Patients to be Discharged Before They’re Well Enough to Leave
An example of what can go wrong was reported in April by WRDW in Georgia. Conyers’ first responders found a 68-year-old man named Jerry just outside the Piedmont Rockdale Hospital, unconscious, with tubes still attached to him. The TV station investigated and found that many other hospital patients were discharged before it was safe.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigated the hospital four times for discharging patients too soon from 2007 to 2017. The results were that the hospital complied with applicable rules. They also investigated what happened to Jerry. HHS found that the hospital failed to make sure discharge planning was enforced and followed.
Hospital surveillance video showed Jerry was wheeled out of his room and out to the edge of hospital property. Twenty-two minutes after leaving his room, local police were called with a report of someone unconscious on the sidewalk outside the hospital. The investigation found that a nurse told a hospital director he was too weak to be discharged and couldn’t believe it was happening.
Jerry’s roommate told the TV station his Medicare and Medicaid coverage ran out, so the hospital may have wanted to avoid providing care without payment. On the day in question, a hospital security guard told a police officer two physicians cleared his discharge. Jerry was described as homeless (which is untrue), and the hospital wanted him out.
An Early Discharge Can Be Fatal if the Patient Has a Severe Psychiatric Condition
The decision to discharge a 26-year-old man with a severe psychiatric condition by an Ontario hospital may have led to his suicide, reports Blackburn News. Robert Martin was found dead in his home bed by his mother. The family blames a hospital psychiatrist for his death.
The family claims the doctor failed to provide adequate care for Martin and released him from the hospital too soon. Martin, suffering from a manic episode, walked home after his release and killed himself shortly afterward.
Why Would a Hospital Discharge Someone Too Soon?
There could be many issues at play:
- During the COVID pandemic, hospitals wanted as few people admitted as possible, so they may have discharged patients quickly to reduce the risk of the infection spreading or to open up beds for those seriously affected by COVID
- Insurance coverage may run out, and the hospital doesn’t want to risk providing unpaid care
- An insurance company may refuse to pay for additional time in the hospital
- A physician may make a mistake in judging how well the patient is and whether they can safely go home. Tests may not have been performed, or their results falsely interpreted, making the patient appear healthier than they are
- Protocols and rules to prevent discharging someone prematurely may not have been followed
- The hospital may be short-staffed and could only safely handle a certain number of patients. The patient may be discharged to reduce the hospital’s headcount and ease the burden of patient care on employees
A major benefit of retaining Schechter, Shaffer, & Harris L.L.P. in this situation is we will investigate what happened, why, and who’s responsible.
Is and Early Hospital Discharge Medical Malpractice?
It might be, depending on the circumstances, if it harmed you. The elements of a Texas medical malpractice claim include:
- A duty of care: A medical professional responsible for someone must provide proper medical care consistent with established medical standards and requirements (the standard of care). You’ll need to show a doctor-patient relationship with the medical practitioner or institution. This relationship creates the duty of care
- Violation of the duty of care: You need to show this duty was breached. The doctor did things he wasn’t supposed to do or didn’t do something well enough given the applicable standard of care. The acts or failures to act by the doctor or hospital didn’t live up to obligations imposed by law or medical standards
- The breach of duty caused you harm: The breach of duty is the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of your injury or the death of a family member. It can be a physical, psychological, or financial injury. Your condition may not have been properly diagnosed, so it got worse, or in a situation like Jerry’s, if you were too weak to be safely discharged, you fell and injured yourself
- You suffered damages: Damages are a way to measure the harm you sustained in dollars. Without an injury or damages, you don’t have a case. You would also need to show that the doctor or hospital is obligated under Texas law to compensate you for your damages
Facts are the foundation of medical malpractice cases. If they support a medical malpractice claim, it’s an option you should consider.
Contact a Houston Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you think you’re the victim of a serious mistake by a hospital, doctor, nurse, or another healthcare professional, contact an experienced attorney at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. as soon as possible. Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, LLP will deal with their insurance company so you can focus on your family and recovering from your injury.
Call us at 713-893-0971 to schedule a free consultation so we can talk about your injury, how it happened, and how we can help.