Posted on 08/11/2021

How an Early Hospital Discharge Can Lead to Medical Malpractice

How an Early Hospital Discharge Can Lead to Medical Malpractice

If you’ve ever been hospitalized, you know how good it feels when the doctors tell you they’re going to discharge you, especially if it’s earlier than you expected. 

And if you’ve recovered to the point where you can continue safely at home, discharge is a great thing. 

But did you know that sometimes early hospital discharge can result in additional injury to your existing medical condition? Or it can cause an entirely new set of medical issues. 

In such a scenario, the healthcare professional or medical facility who discharged you could be legally responsible for any harm or suffering you experience as a direct result of early hospital discharge. 

If a doctor discharges a patient earlier than it is safe to do so, that patient can be at risk for severe avoidable health issues

When a doctor releases a patient before they’re healthy enough to manage without medical supervision, it’s known as early hospital discharge, and it can meet the requirements for a medical malpractice claim. 

What Can Happen if You are Discharged Too Early?

If you or a loved one are discharged too early from medical care, you can experience new or prolonged pain or suffering, have to return to the hospital for medical attention, or incur damages, including financial damages.

Early hospital discharge generally falls into one of three categories.

Birth Early Hospital Discharge

Hospitals typically keep newborn infants for 48 hours following vaginal birth or 96 hours following a Cesarean section without complications. 

If you or your child were discharged earlier and experienced additional medical issues, you may have experienced early hospital discharge medical malpractice. 

Emergency Room Visit Early Hospital Discharge

Emergency departments can be chaotic environments, especially following an accident or during holiday weekends. 

If the attending physician treating you during a visit to the emergency room discharges you too early and your condition worsens, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim for early hospital discharge.

Surgery Early Hospital Discharge

Appropriate post-operative care is vital to ensuring patient health and recovery following surgery. If patients are sent home before their condition has stabilized, it can mean unnecessary pain or return trips to the hospital for medical care. 

In addition to being physically sent home from the hospital, early hospital discharge can include your doctor forgetting to refer you to a specialist or booking a follow-up visit. 

Failure to carry out other medical procedures, such as appropriate medical testing or monitoring vital signs before discharging, can also fall under early hospital discharge. 

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Why do Hospitals Discharge You Early?

Doctors or medical facilities can discharge patients early for a number of reasons.

Hospital Overcrowding

If the hospital you visit has more patients than it can adequately treat, it may not have enough beds to accommodate new patients. This can cause them to rush to release current patients to free up beds for incoming patients. 

Hospital overcrowding can result in rushed patient care, with some patients being discharged before their condition is medically stable.

Staffing Issues

When hospitals are understaffed, medical professionals can find themselves overworked. Even the most caring doctor can make critical errors in this situation because they are rushed to resolve a patient's case. 

When your attending physician is extremely busy, they may not carry out the necessary assessments or tests before recommending discharge, putting you or your loved one at risk. Alternatively, they may experience fatigue that can also lead to medical malpractice.

Can Early Discharge Lead To Medical Malpractice

All medical malpractice cases require patients to show the following: 

  • The doctor being sued officially cared for the patient
  • The doctor's action (or inaction) was negligent
  • The doctor's negligence resulted in the patient suffering injury
  • The injury suffered by the patient resulted in damages

While not every instance of early hospital discharge is considered medical malpractice, if a patient experiences further harm due to early release, it can meet the legal requirements of medical malpractice. 

To understand whether you have a medical malpractice claim resulting from early hospital discharge, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Did your health worsen as a result of early discharge?
  • Did you experience new or additional pain, suffering, or damages resulting from the early discharge?
  • Did you have additional expenses directly related to your early release (e.g., lost earnings, lost ability to work and earn an income, additional medical bills, etc.)?

How Do I Prove Early Hospital Discharge Medical Malpractice 

To prove medical malpractice as a result of early hospital discharge requires establishing medical negligence. 

This means proving the doctor or the hospital released you too soon and that you experienced pain and suffering as a direct result. To do this, you must show the following:

  1. The attending physician who treated you did not provide the same level of care another doctor (with a similar background and in a similar situation) would have provided
  2. The hospital treating you released you earlier than another hospital (in similar circumstances) would have

To prove your medical malpractice claim, you should discuss your situation with an attorney specializing in medical malpractice, like the medical malpractice team at Grover Lewis Johnson.  

Can I Prevent Early Hospital Discharge?

If you feel you are at risk of early hospital discharge, you can take certain actions to help protect yourself.

  1. Ask to talk with the doctor treating you and request that they explain the reason(s) for your release at this time
  2. Express any concerns to your physician or other healthcare professionals about still feeling unwell, in pain, or are unable to care for yourself
  3. Ask for a copy of your "Discharge Rights" and read them carefully to determine whether your doctor's actions violate any of these rights

Contact Grover Lewis Johnson today for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, if you feel you've experienced early discharge medical malpractice.

One of our medical malpractice team experts will go over your information with you to help you decide your best course of action to get the compensation you deserve.

Photo by Ante Samarzija on Unsplash