Would Getting Discharged Too Soon After an Accident Be Considered Medical Malpractice?

Medical Malpractice | April 18, 2022

Medical malpractice is a broad area of personal injury law that can refer to almost limitless examples of a doctor or health care provider falling short of the accepted standards of medical care. One example of medical malpractice is premature discharge – when a patient is sent home from a hospital or emergency room too early. This mistake can have serious consequences for a patient. Depending on the scenario, it can be considered medical malpractice in Kentucky.

What Are a Patient’s Rights?

Health care providers are sworn to engage in proper conduct when treating patients. They are ethically bound to treat their patients to the best of their ability. This includes following the correct medical procedures for discharging a patient. The doctor should create a discharge plan that is optimal for the patient’s health and safety. The doctor should act as an advocate for the patient, meaning the doctor should reject any discharge plan that is too early.

A doctor cannot decide to discharge a patient based on a protected class, such as race, immigration status or socioeconomic standing. Instead, the doctor must determine whether the patient is medically stable before organizing the discharge from the treatment facility. Then, the doctor must collaborate with other health care professionals and the patient to establish a plan in place for future needed care.

What Does Premature Discharge Look Like?

Premature discharge refers to a patient who is sent away from a doctor’s office or hospital before he or she is medically stable. It is different from patient abandonment, where a doctor suddenly ends a relationship with a patient without giving him or her enough time to find a replacement practitioner. Premature discharge means that a patient has been admitted to a hospital, ER, surgical center or health care center but is sent home too early. It can refer to many different acts, including:

  • Failing to diagnose or treat a patient’s injury or medical condition before sending the patient away.
  • Sending a patient home before providing adequate tests for a possible medical condition.
  • Sending a newborn baby home without the proper assessments and waiting period.
  • Discharging a patient too soon after surgery.

Premature discharge can cause a range of health problems for the patient. If a patient is sent home too soon post-surgery, for example, he or she may develop infections or other complications. Emergency readmissions are common in cases involving premature discharge, as underlying medical conditions may be misdiagnosed, overlooked or left untreated.

When Is Premature Discharge Medical Malpractice?

Not all incidents involving premature discharge give rise to medical malpractice claims. To have grounds for this type of lawsuit in Kentucky, being discharged too soon must have resulted in harm or injury to the patient. The premature discharge must be the proximate, or main, cause of the harm being claimed. If the patient most likely would have experienced the health problem regardless of the premature discharge, he or she may not have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. The elements necessary for a claim are:

  1. A patient-doctor relationship.
  2. The doctor’s breach of the medical industry’s standards of care.
  3. A causal link between the doctor’s breach and the patient’s injury.
  4. Compensable losses suffered by the patient.

If a doctor or hospital discharges a patient too early according to medical standards and this can be proven as the main or actual cause of the patient’s complaint, the health care provider can be held liable. This can result in financial compensation awarded to cover the patient’s related losses. It is up to the plaintiff to meet the burden of proof to win this type of lawsuit, however, which means clear and convincing evidence that these elements are most likely true. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you build and structure your claim for the best possible results. Contact Hendy | Johnson | Vaughn | Emery today for more information.

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