Early Discharge of Patients Can Be Medical Malpractice

Early Discharge of Patients Can Be Medical MalpracticeDoctors spend several years training for their medical specialty, meaning patients trust and depend on them to make the right decisions regarding their health. However, discharging patients too soon is a common mistake made by doctors, which can also be considered medical malpractice. Whether you travel to a top-ranking medical facility in Washington, DC for a major procedure or stop by a local hospital for a minor cut or fracture, it is crucial to know the signs of premature discharge and what to do when it happens.

What is considered a premature discharge?

A premature discharge is when a patient is discharged too early. This means they may be released  after a surgery, emergency room visit, or medical appointment without the healthcare provider ensuring it is safe for them to do so. When patients are released too soon, they may develop new illnesses, or their current medical condition could worsen, potentially leading to life-threatening consequences. Some examples of a premature discharge include:

  • The doctor failed to order the appropriate tests for your condition.
  • The doctor did not wait for the X-ray, CT scan, or MRI results to come back to find out what type of illness or injury you have.
  • The doctor did not ensure that you were mentally or physically stable to take care of yourself after discharge.

Is releasing patients too early a problem?

Releasing patients too early is a substantial problem, for several important reasons:

  • You may have had an unsuccessful surgery or procedure.
  • You may have issues with normal tasks after the surgery or procedure, such as drinking, eating, urinating, or walking.
  • The doctor may have failed to clearly understand your issues during the visit, meaning that they did not properly treat or diagnose your condition.
  • You may have a severe illness or injury that was left undetected.

What is required for a patient’s successful discharge?

A hospital discharge is an important process that formally releases a patient. A patient usually receives a discharge when they “no longer need to receive inpatient care.” However, you can also be discharged if transferred to a different hospital or facility. Before an official discharge, there is certain information you and your medical provider should discuss, including:

  • Your current medical condition and whether it is expected to improve
  • Whether you will need follow-up medical care (physical therapy, primary care doctor, specialist)
  • What type of medications you are required to take (this includes when, why, and how)
  • How you can reach out to a doctor or nurse if you have concerns or questions
  • Whether your medical tests are available, the results, and how you can access them in the future
  • What type of food, beverages, and activities are allowed
  • Whether you need any special medical equipment and where to get it (wheelchairs, walkers, canes, etc.)
  • Whether any side effects or complications could occur
  • Where you are going and why, if transferred to a different facility

Are hospitals responsible for a patient’s well-being after discharge?

Hospitals usually have a discharge planner or Washington, D.C. social worker responsible for helping the patient understand the discharge process. Before a patient can be discharged, the discharge planner must ensure that they have set up any medical care or follow-up care necessary after the discharge. Once the patient is officially discharged, they are no longer under the care of the hospital. However, if a problem arises due to the hospital’s mistake or negligence, they may still be responsible for the patient’s well-being even after discharge.

Can a hospital discharge you against your wishes?

If you do not feel ready to be discharged, you have the right to refuse a discharge. This usually requires appealing the discharge. If your appeal is denied, the hospital will likely discharge you or require you to pay for an extended stay out of pocket. If this is the case, you may need to speak to a patient advocate, a Quality Information Officer, or a lawyer who can help you delay the discharge process right away.

Can I file a medical malpractice claim for early discharge?

In order to pursue a medical malpractice claim for early discharge, you must be able to prove you suffered losses due to the hospital’s negligence. While it may have been negligent for the hospital to release you too soon, you likely cannot collect on a claim if you cannot prove any harm resulted. However, if you did suffer complications as a result of an early discharge, a lawyer can help you start the legal process and gather the necessary information to support your claim, such as:

  • Medical records and reports
  • Nurse or doctor notes
  • Prescriptions
  • Receipts or bills
  • Tests or imaging results
  • Evidence of repeated treatment

Do I have to pursue an early discharge lawsuit alone?

Absolutely not. Hospitals in Washington, D.C. owe patients a duty to fully treat their symptoms and minimize the risks of complications following a discharge. When hospitals fail to do so, a medical malpractice attorney holds them accountable, and helps ensure nobody else suffers harm as a result of medical negligence.

Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling our office.