Patient Abandonment Is an Often Overlooked Type of Medical Malpractice

An Empty Wheelchair Sitting in a Hospital CorridorPatient abandonment is a form of medical malpractice that's often overlooked, a serious medical condition can have serious consequences. Just as victims of surgical errors or a failure to diagnose are entitled to compensation, victims of patient abandonment can seek reimbursement for damages they've suffered as the result of their doctor's conduct.

Defining Patient Abandonment

Although doctors aren't required to agree to treat every patient who wants to enlist their services, they aren't allowed to stop treatment without allowing the patient sufficient time to find another healthcare provider before terminating their services.

Some examples of conduct that would likely qualify as patient abandonment include:

  • A doctor or his on-call staff does not respond within a reasonable timeframe when a woman calls complaining of symptoms of pneumonia. As a result, the woman ends up needing surgery to drain the infected fluid in her lungs.

  • A doctor schedules a follow-up appointment several weeks away for a patient who states he is having an adverse reaction to antidepressants. The man's condition deteriorates and he is hospitalized following a suicide attempt.

  • A doctor won't treat a pregnant patient because she has an outstanding medical bill. As a result, the woman is left without appropriate prenatal care and develops complications resulting in preterm labor.

  • A doctor fails to arrange for home healthcare services for an elderly woman being treated for chest pain and dizziness. When the woman returns home, she falls and breaks her hip trying to shower on her own.

  • A surgeon prematurely discharges a patient without providing follow-up care instructions. The patient develops an infection and requires a second surgery.

  • A cardiologist abruptly closes her practice without making arrangements to ensure her patients have a source of follow-up care. One of her patients struggles to locate another cardiologist on his own and suffers a heart attack while his family attempts to find a suitable care provider.

Situations in which the doctor has a valid reason to terminate the relationship do not qualify as patient abandonment. Examples of valid reasons for no longer treating a patient include:

  • The doctor does not have the necessary skill to properly treat the patient.

  • The doctor does not have adequate resources to treat the patient.

  • The patient has repeatedly missed appointments, makes sexual advances, is verbally abusive, or has violated other office policies.

  • The patient won't comply with the doctor's treatment recommendations.

  • The doctor is physically or mentally incapable of properly caring for patients.

If a doctor has a valid reason to terminate the relationship, he must provide written notice and recommendations for other care providers. He must agree to continue seeing the patient until a new provider has been found and to forward all medical records to the new provider in a timely fashion.

Proving a Patient Abandonment Claim

There are four key elements that must be proven to be successful in receiving compensation for a patient abandonment claim.

  1. You must prove that you had a doctor-patient relationship with the provider you are suing for medical malpractice.

  2. You must prove that your provider abandoned you when you still needed medical attention.

  3. You must prove that this abandonment was so sudden that you didn’t have a chance to find a replacement care provider.

  4. You must prove that you suffered serious harm because of your doctor's abandonment.

Protect Your Legal Rights With the Help of a Medical Malpractice Attorney

In any medical malpractice case involving patient abandonment, it's crucial that you enlist the services of an experienced attorney. The laws surrounding acceptable proof for patient abandonment claims can be very complex. A skilled attorney can make sure you understand your legal rights and receive the full amount of compensation you're entitled to under the law.

Medical malpractice cases have a strict statute of limitations, which means that a patient abandonment claim must be filed promptly. If you believe you are the victim of patient abandonment resulting in serious injuries to you, call (888) MY IE LAW to schedule a consultation with the skilled personal injury attorneys at the Inland Empire Law Group.