July 16, 2016

Hospital patients should be aware of their rights so they can avoid situations where their medical concerns are not addressed before discharge.

When people in Spokane, Washington, go to a hospital for a procedure or because of troubling symptoms, health care providers have a responsibility to listen to them respectfully and evaluate the conditions that caused their concerns. This same responsibility applies when people have received treatment and the hospital feels they are ready to return home.

In Florida, a woman was recently forced to leave a hospital because the providers felt her condition was stable, according to 4NBC Washington. She disagreed, refused to leave, and was subsequently escorted out of the building by local law enforcement. Unfortunately, she had a blood clot in her lungs that no one discovered during her examination and treatment, and it was this missed diagnosis that led to her death while in police custody.

When is it safe for me to leave the hospital?

According to U.S. News & World Report, communication about treatment goals between the provider and patient is essential from the beginning. When a person knows what milestones must be met before discharge, he or she can participate in determining whether the timing is right.

Even when patients feel they are ready to go home, the health care team should evaluate the situation carefully to prevent unnecessary harm to them. This includes assessing whether it is safe for the patient to leave, based on the reasons he or she came to the hospital, and whether the conditions at home are conducive to ongoing recovery.

Can a hospital discharge me against my will?

Health care providers must allow patients to be involved in the choices that are made about their treatment, including discharge timing, according to the Joint Commission. People often understand their bodies better than doctors. When patients feel there is something wrong, physicians have a responsibility to listen and investigate further.

How can I make sure my problems are addressed?

The Joint Commission mandates that patients have the right to a patient advocate. This person acts as a representative, providing support to patients by going over instructions, asking questions and seeking assistance to ensure the proper level of care when it is not being provided.

The advocate is chosen by the patient rather than the facility, and a friend or family member may fill that role. In Washington, professional health advocates are available through the Washington State Health Advocacy Association, as well. In addition to help with medical care, an advocate may help with administrative or insurance issues.

Violating a patient’s rights can lead to significant harm, and even death. A personal injury attorney may be able to assist a patient who is suffering as a result of inadequate medical care.

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