Most people would avoid a trip to the hospital unless it were completely necessary, and once the doctor checks off on your chart and says you are free to go home, you might breathe a sigh of relief. But sometimes, there is just something not right about being sent home.
You don’t feel right, or there seem to be some tests they missed. Maybe you have put your entire trust in your doctor’s judgment, and once you return home, you start to wonder if that was the biggest mistake of your life. But if you are discharged too soon, it could be considered medical malpractice in many cases. Learn more about personal injury law and hospital negligence from our experienced medical malpractice lawyers.
Medical Negligence Guide
- Early discharge
- Reasons hospitals discharge too soon
- Early release causes complications
- Injuries or ailments common with early discharge
- What you can do
- Contact a medical malpractice attorney
Not every early release from the hospital is done with the best judgment of what is going on. Sometimes returning home too soon can mean that something about your condition was overlooked. Medical care is a vital part of your health and safety, and more often than not, these decisions are put in the hands of a select few.
Your doctor is responsible for ensuring that your condition permits release—early or otherwise—which can be problematic, especially if your doctor hasn’t even seen you or has done only a cursory examination of you. Sometimes the medical staff lacks experience or is dealing with scheduling difficulties, staffing, or poor training. Each year, millions of malpractice suits are filed, and a substantial number of those cases have to do with the quality of care, including early discharge medical malpractice.
Duty of care
One of the elements of the quality of your care is the duty of care. A physician entrusted with your health and well-being must provide sufficient attention to your condition and be obliged to reasonable care while you are in their charge. Typically a medical malpractice suit will fall under the category of negligence rather than malicious intent or recklessness.
When you are admitted to a doctor’s care, they have a responsibility not to harm their patients. If you suffered harm due to wrongfulness, you must have been under the care of the doctor you are accusing. The burden of proof is on you to prove that you were harmed due to their actions.
A lot to consider
Many things are considered when you accuse a doctor of medical malpractice. Conditions such as your medical history, symptoms, and whether or not you followed the prescribed treatment program that your doctor offered can play a part in whether or not harm to you were caused by the doctor releasing you early from care.
Your attorney can review the evidence supporting your malpractice claim to see what grounds your case will have in a court of law. Just remember that there are many reasons you may have gotten an early release, and many of them are not due to an honest mistake on the doctor’s part. In these cases, a hospital should be held accountable for placing you in harm’s way by discharging you too soon.
Reasons hospitals discharge too soon
If you were discharged sooner than expected and suffered no consequences, you wouldn’t consider a lawsuit. The hospital discharged you too soon, which meant it should have provided further care and treatment to protect your health and safety.
- Insurance: Hospitals release people too soon mainly because of money. Hospitals are under a lot of pressure to deliver the absolute minimum of care due to what insurance companies will pay for. This can result in being sent home too soon after a surgical procedure just because of the mentality that you are no longer their problem once you leave the hospital. You are at risk for further injury, infection, and serious problems without proper at-home care or instruction on how to perform after-care.
- Prejudice: Sometimes language barriers or cultural differences can strain medical staff and patients. Unfortunately, these attitudes and prejudices can present themselves in an early discharge before your condition is stable enough to warrant release from the hospital. Doctors and staff must provide sufficient care for their patients, regardless of language, cultural background, or ethnicity. Your patient’s Bill of Rights lists them.
- Apathy: Medical staff must provide continuity of care and provide you with complete information regarding your diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, some doctors and staff have little to no empathy for patients and process them with about as much concern. Not caring what happens to their patients after being released too soon is a dangerous level of neglect that can endanger lives.
- Wrong diagnosis: Patients are released with misdiagnosis all the time. However, the motivation behind that can range from the rarity of your condition to a doctor simply neglecting their responsibilities to get you in and out as quickly as possible.
- Poorly trained staff: Sometimes early release can result from inexperience, which is why a hospital’s duty of care means that they are required to assign their patients an Attending Physician who is considered to be experienced enough to diagnose and treat their patients.
- Scheduling conflicts: A hospital scheduler has their hands full with coordinating nurse and doctor schedules and coordinating the different medical care providers so that treatment is effective and consistent. A hospital that allows patients to fall through the cracks and be dismissed without complete, adequate care is endangering the lives of its patients. Again, this is often a result of money being a factor, where schedulers wear different hats to save money for the hospital’s staffing needs.
- Improper testing: This goes hand in hand with a wrong diagnosis and is often related to a hospital saving money or tests not being run due to insurance. Skipping tests or providing incorrect tests for the symptoms can often lead to misdiagnosis or missing conditions which could be life-threatening later on.
- Short-staffed: In recent years, hospitals have faced a staffing crisis, with shortages of medical personnel such as nurses, doctors, and other care workers. To save costs of being fully staffed, hospitals often cut corners or find that their staff is spread too thin to provide adequate care. Often, hospitals will release patients too early to accommodate the shortages.
- Recklessness: Unfortunately, one of the causes of malpractice is reckless behavior. Doctors can find themselves as the weak link in the chain of health and safety for their patients, from substance abuse to behavioral issues. Doctors who work long hours and use stimulants to keep up or who have become addicted to substances recreationally pose a threat to their patients and need to be held accountable.
Early release causes complications
Your health is likely your top priority, and the negligence of a hospital can often mean the difference between enjoying an adequate quality of life and endangering that balance, adversely affecting you in all sorts of ways.
- Medical complications: From infection to improper healing, if you are not physically stable enough to go home again, this could result in complications. For example, ignoring indications on test results, such as signs of internal bleeding, possible brain trauma, and infection, can result in serious problems and even death.
- Delayed diagnosis: Early release might have meant that the doctor missed some key indications that would have provided much-needed information about your overall condition. For example, your abdominal pain might have presented as heartburn early on, but additional tests and monitoring might have revealed an infected gallbladder.
- Untreated conditions: Early release can partially treat a life-threatening condition. Releasing someone who has suffered multiple injuries in a traumatic event, such as a car accident, before addressing all of the injuries sustained will do nothing for the patient’s overall health.
- Injury: Sometimes procedures can be invasive and even cause damage, even what doctors might call routine tests. Endoscopies, colonoscopies, and other tests can result in internal injuries, and an early release could result in a patient dying at home due to internal injuries caused by the test. Other conditions need to be considered, such as any medications the patient is taking, such as blood thinners, or other medications that could result in complications if left unmonitored.
- Death: Any number of complications and untreated injuries can result in death. Being sent home too soon has killed more patients than the medical community will likely admit.
- Pain and suffering: The results of neglect can result in unnecessary pain and suffering, which could have been prevented altogether if not for the negligence of your doctor and the hospital that was treating you.
Injuries or ailments common with early discharge
This list is not comprehensive but these serious conditions that might result in a premature hospital discharge.
- Organ dysfunction
- Gallstones/Kidney stones
- Perforated bowel
- Blood clots
- Pulmonary embolism
- Staph infections
People have babies every day, but many of the problems that arise shortly after arriving home with your newborn could be avoided. It is recommended that newborns stay in the hospital for a minimum of 48 hours to see if there are any problems.
Sometimes doctors cut corners regarding how long the newborn stays in the hospital to free up bed space or because of insurance. The excuse might even be with older siblings at home, this isn’t a new mother, and she doesn’t require longer stays in the hospital.
Whatever the reason, it can endanger the lives of both the mother and the child.
- Jaundice: Many babies are born with bile ducts that have not yet become functional. Jaundiced babies are often yellowish and can benefit from ultraviolet light therapy in a neonatal intensive care unit. Without these treatments, babies can become very sick or even die.
- Respiratory issues: Complications during birth, such as swallowing meconium or other fluids, can result in respiratory issues. Early release from the hospital might result in missing these problems.
- Other conditions related to infant death: Babies are extremely vulnerable, and modern medicine has helped increase the survival rate of infants significantly over the years. Medical malpractice can take us back to a much darker time in which care for infants wasn’t available, and the prospects of survival were bleak.
Being released too early from the hospital can result in some serious damage, not only to the patient’s health but also to their livelihood.
- Bills: With additional trips to the hospital, some of which might not be covered by insurance due to early discharge, the bills will begin to stack up, often leading to severe financial difficulty.
- Lost wages: Since these complications often get much worse, patients can expect lost time at work due to subsequent surgeries, rehabilitation, and recovery. With added bills, lost work time will only compound your situation’s negative effects.
- Permanent injuries: Missing out on the signs of medical complications can result in even more serious injuries. The resulting infections and even removal or damage to tissues and symptoms can be a life-changing event that could have been prevented.
- Disabilities: Especially with neurological injuries, vascular trauma, and other systems, overlooked conditions can result in permanent physical and cognitive disabilities.
- Pain and suffering: Enduring the aftermath of injury due to negligence can affect someone’s life for many years to come, if not permanently. The physical pain, as well as the mental anguish, is something that they will have to deal with every day. These kinds of injuries are not always obvious on the outside, but they are very real and deserve compensation.
What you can do
You can do many things to help prevent further injury due to being released too soon from the hospital.
Remember that as a patient, you have rights, and your doctor must respect those rights throughout your treatment.
- Talk to your doctor: If something doesn’t feel right or you have concerns or questions about your condition, talk to your doctor about these issues. Even if they make a rare appearance during rounds, you can still request to speak to a professional and have the right to share your medical questions and history with other doctors of your choosing.
- Request discharge rights: You have a right to know every detail about your medical treatment, which includes discharge. Ask to see your discharge papers and discuss your options and your treatment plan with your doctor.
- Voice your concerns about pain: Not being vocal about your pain isn’t going to help you and might give a negligent doctor the excuse they have been waiting for an early discharge. Pain is a good indication that something is wrong, so be sure to listen to your body.
Contact a medical malpractice attorney
If you feel that your rights as a patient were violated or your injuries resulted from negligence at the hands of your doctor or hospital, you need to take further action to ensure your rights are protected. An attorney can speak with you about the details of your situation and advise you whether you have sufficient information to bring the case to a trial if necessary.
Many negligence cases are worked out in mediation, and a settlement can be reached. Medical malpractice suits are important in protecting your rights and the rights of other patients who might face the same challenges due to negligence. The damages you must recover will likely be costly, painful, and time-consuming. An attorney can help alleviate the stress and confusion you are experiencing during these trying times.