Medical Malpractice: Can you sue a hospital for early discharge?

By VSCP LAW

If a hospital discharges a patient before it’s appropriate to do so, you could sue the hospital and medical team for early discharge. Read on to learn more about this medical malpractice claim.

WHAT DOES “EARLY DISCHARGE” MEAN?

What does the term “early discharge” mean in the context of a medical malpractice case? Let’s start with the second term, “discharge,” which refers to the action of a hospital releasing the patient from their care and sending them home. “Early” obviously refers to the timing – being released prematurely or too soon from the hospital is what qualifies as early discharge. Other ways to describe this are “premature discharge,” “untimely discharge,” and “wrongful discharge.”

IN WHAT CONTEXT IS SOMEONE DISCHARGED TOO EARLY?

Many early discharge cases arise in the context of the emergency room. Emergency rooms (or ERs) are places where the hospital wants patients in and out – either the patient leaves the ER to go home or they leave the ER to be transferred to another wing of the hospital or an outpatient medical office. Either way, the hospital wants the patient in and out of the ER in quick fashion if possible so they can prioritize newly presenting patients.

Here are some examples of early discharge from the ER:

  • A woman goes to the ER because she has a terrible headache that she cannot get under control along with slurred speech. The ER gives her a high dose of pain medication and that provides some relief but the medical professionals in the ER fail to perform any radiology of her brain.  They discharge her and the cause of her symptoms, a stroke, goes undiagnosed.
  • A teenager goes to the ER with shortness of breath. The ER says the difficulty breathing is because he’s having a panic attack and they help him calm down but fail to do any diagnostic testing. When it appears that his breathing is becoming steadier, they discharge him. In fact, the teenager was suffering from heart failure and needed emergency cardiac care.
  • A man goes to the ER after he is bit by his neighbor’s dog; the bite is swollen and painful. The ER gives him a shot of steroids and a high dose of pain medication and then discharges him without performing any diagnostic laboratory tests of his blood.  In fact, the swelling was evidence of a bacterial infection and the man dies days later because he was never prescribed an antibiotic.

Not all early discharge cases happen in the ER. Sometimes a patient could be treated as an outpatient when they should be kept overnight for further observation. And other times, a patient stays for a few days in the hospital and is released before being in stable condition.

Whatever the exact circumstance, if you believe that you or a loved one was discharged from a healthcare setting too early, you may have a valid early discharge medical malpractice case. To learn important next steps, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at VSCP Law.

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