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Is Being Discharged Too Early From a Hospital Considered Medical Malpractice?

Empty hospital room

From time to time, doctors make a poor decision to discharge a patient from the hospital before it may be the time to do so. Sending a patient home too early can lead to worsening conditions for the patient, the need for the patient to be readmitted, etc. In some situations, patients who have been discharged early may have a case of medical malpractice on their hands.

What is Medical Malpractice?

The rules of medical malpractice tend to vary from state to state, making it hard to directly identify situations that can be classified as malpractice. Typically, a patient who was discharged early must have been caused harm in some fashion and the circumstances in which the patient was discharged must fall below the standard act of care. When determining whether you have been treated with medical malpractice, the question of “Would a doctor who has similar expertise have released the patient with their given conditions and circumstances at the time of discharge?” If practicing doctors respond to this question with statements that contrast the terms of the discharge, the patient may have a sound case of medical malpractice.

Why do doctors or hospitals release patients too early?

Top 3 reasons hospitals are likely to discharge patients early:

  • Too busy: Because hospitals face overcrowding, they sometimes release patients too early in an effort to get new patients in.
  • Money: Hospitals often operate on a money-driven incentive and the best way to make money is to perform the most surgeries possible.
  • Medical errors: Patients are often released from the hospital before the doctor has run necessary tests due to a flaw in judgment.

Whether it is because the hospital is concerned about the number of open (or not open) beds or because the doctor failed to run further tests on the patient, early discharge can occur for a number of reasons. Following procedures, births, and emergency visits, doctors should perform numerous tests and examinations to verify that the patient is in a stable condition to leave the hospital.

For patients who were harmed as a result of an early discharge mistake on behalf of the doctor or the facility, the argument of medical malpractice can be validated if the doctor or facility:

  • Failed to schedule a follow-up or post-procedure appointment
  • Failed to ensure that the patient was medically stable
  • Failed to correctly diagnose and treat the patient according to their condition
  • Failed to conduct the necessary tests before releasing the patient

Was the harm experienced due to early discharge significant?

The harm done due to discharging a patient early from the hospital can take place in many forms:

  • Financial costs
  • Loss of ability to work / earn income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of being able to enjoy daily activities

However, when dealing with potential medical malpractice, it is important to prove that the negligence of the doctor or facility was the direct and implicit cause of the harm. Mistakes made during a patient’s hospital stay do not directly indicate that medical malpractice was present. Being readmitted into the hospital following an early discharge does not provide sufficient proof that it was harmful to the patient. While it may be inconvenient and financially troubling to be readmitted into the hospital, returning to the hospital and receiving treatment that should have been experienced during the first visit does not specifically attest to a situation that can be considered medical malpractice. However, if a patient experiences symptoms or conditions that they would have not otherwise experienced as a result of early discharge, a viable medical malpractice lawsuit is present.

A more common example of early discharge is a baby’s birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they recommend that newborns remain in the hospital up to 48 hours following their birth. In addition to the 48 hours, they also created a list of 16 points that doctors must cover before allowing the baby to leave the hospital. When a newborn is released without all criteria being met, parents are able to make a claim of medical malpractice.

How can you prevent being discharged too early?

If you are worried about a doctor or facility discharging you too early, take the following steps to make sure you are protected:

  1. Ask the hospital for your discharge rights.
  2. Be sure to speak with the physician who is treating you if you feel that you are being released before you are stable.
  3. If you are still in pain, experiencing symptoms as a result of the procedure or illness, or are unable to take care of yourself, let someone know.

If you feel that you have experienced any of these issues, how do you prove medical malpractice?

If and when your case of medical malpractice due to early discharge makes it to trial, it is extremely important that you have an expert witness to testify on your behalf. The expert who represents you in trial often needs to be skilled and experienced in the same field as the physician who treated you during your hospital stay. In order to have a valid case, the expert will need to discuss why the treatment and early discharge that you received fell below the standard act of care that serves as a minimum requirement for doctors. Having detailed examples of how the patient was harmed or neglected by being sent home early also provides sound evidence for you case. The Voorhies Law Firm can help you when it comes to these matters about your New Orleans medical malpractice case.

How to report medical malpractice?

If you or someone you know may have experienced medical malpractice through early discharge or negligence, contact the Voorhies Personal Injury Law Firm in New Orleans, a firm founded on integrity and trust, today.