Is It Negligent For a Doctor to Abandon a Patient?

Is It Negligent For a Doctor to Abandon a Patient? – AllLaw.com – by Andrew Suszek

When a patient is harmed by a doctor’s cessation of treatment – commonly called “patient abandonment’, or “medical abandonment” – a malpractice case may result.

A patient will often visit a doctor at a fairly distressing time, often at the height of the patient’s vulnerability.

As a result, a doctor may harm a patient merely by declining to provide treatment or by ceasing the provision of care before it is medically reasonable to do so.  

A doctor’s abandonment of a patient who is in need of care can give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit. This article discusses the applicable laws, as well as how patients must prove their medical malpractice cases when they have been harmed by a doctor’s failure to treat.

Abandonment Resulting in Medical Malpractice

A patient may still have a case for abandonment under general medical malpractice rules. In order to win such a case, a patient must prove the basic elements necessary to win any medical malpractice case:

  • the appropriate standard of care under the circumstances
  • the commission of medical negligence in the provision of treatment, and
  • harm caused by that negligence

In the sections below, we’ll describe some common patient abandonment fact patterns and then take a closer look at how the elements of a malpractice case apply to those fact patterns.

Common Abandonment Fact Patterns

Transfer Without Proper Instruction

Once a doctor initiates treatment of a patient, the doctor must not only terminate care at a proper time but also in a proper manner.

If a doctor transfers a patient to the care of a second doctor, the second doctor may not be familiar with crucial details of a patient’s care. So, the first doctor has an ongoing obligation to provide the second doctor with proper instructions and all relevant records (treatment notes, test results, etc.).

Failure to do so could rise to the level of medical malpractice.

Patient’s Failure to Pay

A doctor cannot terminate care of a patient when the patient is at a critical stage of treatment, solely because the patient is unable to pay for the care.

However, if the patient is in a stable condition and is given ample warning of the termination, a doctor may be able to stop treatment

The critical issue in these cases is usually whether the abandonment actually caused the harm suffered by the patient. 

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One thought on “Is It Negligent For a Doctor to Abandon a Patient?

  1. Kathy C

    The key word here is “May”. Physicians constantly afraid of Litigation, that they regularly attend Conferences where the possibility of Litigation is overemphasized, and they learn Industry strategies to avoid it. Various Lobbying Groups have “Educated” Congress, and the Medical Industry on “Malpractice Abuse.” A recent Statement by a Congressman on the A.C.A, referred to it. The Healthcare Industry used to claim the reason Healthcare is so expensive was due to Malpractice and frivolous Lawsuits.
    Data Suggests that 4% of Healthcare Costs might be attributes to “Defensive Medicine” and Legal Costs. Most HMO’s have a very good and expensive Legal Team. These Lawyers not only defend against Lawsuits, they deal with Contracts, and Compliance and avoiding “Litigation.” They help these Billion Dollar Companies save money and increase Profitability applying Law to every aspect of these Businesses. In tandem with Management, Profitability experts, they find ways around the Law, and protect these companies, while keeping at least a minimal appearance of following the Law.
    The general Public using Corporate Media for their information has been schooled too. The Mc Donald’s “Hot Coffee Case” and the occasional Media Sensationalized Lawsuit for an obviously silly purpose, gave the Public the false Impression that the industry found Profitable. Corporate Media, owned by the same entities that profit from our Healthcare System have “Educated”: the public. One of the key areas the Industry focused on prior to the “Healthcare Reform” was avoiding Liability. Every aspect of Healthcare Law, Policy and Billing was studied, and measures were taken to avoid Liability. They saw Data Collection and Information as a threat, and enlisted Physicians and Medical Businesses, and even the general Public which relied on the Media for Information. They anticipated the “Data Revolution” by interfering with, and minimizing the amount of Data the Government could collect. They even enlisted Patients under the guise of “Privacy.”
    Data does not lie but people do. They enlisted the help of data Scientists too. These Companies are Profitable in part because they are able to influence the Public, and avoid attention. A few well placed “News” Releases about a frivolous Lawsuit, along with well placed Articles in the Business Pages about Business Opportunities, is all it takes to mislead the public and sway public opinion. The Corporate Media just leaves out a lot of information, like relevant facts, numbers and Statistics, These Articles appear to be credible and even contain statements by “Experts” but these are chosen from thousands of Articles and only support a certain narrative. They undermine actual issues in advance of breaking Stories, to ruin the credibility, attack the integrity of the Author or Institution, and even Advertise a Product. The Corporate Media has trained the public to respond to nearly all Lawsuits, whether Environmental, or Justice related, not with concern about the participate of the entity being sued, but with scorn for the Money grubbers. These Media Strategists are clever, this is what they are trained to do.
    A Patient left a Paraplegic, in an obvious Malpractice case, is treated with scorn and Suspicion. They even got some well paid “Psychologists and Psychiatrists” to Study the “Mental Health Disorder” of a Patient that sues. Even with obvious Physical Challenges, daily Pain, Lost Income and frustration that can be easily measured, these Patients can now be described as “Mentally Ill.” They “Studied” this in every possible combination, looking for any Evidence of Motivation. These Biased Studies were then fed to Lawyers, and Insurance Companies, and watered down for the general public. The Studies, like in other areas don’t have to provide any actual Scientific Evidence, gullible people will take the Media version where the Overstated “Conclusions” are more important. They easily influenced the Psychologists, and Psychiatrists to support the profitability of the Medical and Insurance Industries. Any Patient dealing with a Health Condition, Failed Surgery or Adverse Outcome, was now described as “Seeking a Payout.” Patients that were not Suing, they were already overwhelmed by dealing with an incurable lifetime Issue, were seeking an ‘Emotional Payout.” Psychologists focused their concern on whether or not the Patient was involved in Litigation. Psychologists “Counseled their Clients, telling them that Litigation was not conducive to recovery from a physical Injury. Patients involved in Litigation, . “Did not want to get better.” The Payout would interfere with Physical Therapy or their “State of Mind.”
    It does not matter if it is true, just that people believe it. Corporate Media ran thousands of Articles on Unscientific Studies, all of them supported the Industry narrative. They ran an Article about a Study on Prayer back in 1999, it was Scientifically unsound, but it was reprinted in Newspapers all over the Country. This Article got picked up by “Believers” in every area, Social Services, Healthcare Workers, and Faith Groups. Almost 20 years later, this “Study” will be quoted or referred to as Fact. The Retraction was not Publicized, yet this misleading “Fake News” in now Fact for a lot of people. Myths have been repeated so much they are now Fact. Opinions are more important than Facts, even in Medicine. Questioning these Myths, is not Profitable, and each one benefits an Industry, or increased the profitability of some Industry. That is why the Corporate Media repeats them and refers to them.
    Lawsuits are another Industry perpetuated Myth. The fear of Litigation runs so deep in Physicians, and their Employers that their Lobbying Groups Lobbied Congress, Regulatory Boards, and “Quality Assessment Organizations.” They even placed their Industry Insiders in these Institutions, and gave millions to Political Campaigns. The Industry Advertised to Physicians under the guise of “Education.” The Industry Sponsored Education, made sure that Physicians were Over exposed to Industry Concerns. They even changed the Language, words like Pain, Malpractice and even “Adverse Events” were filtered out of Corporate Publications and “News.”
    We are now in a Fact Free Era, the Myth of the Lawsuit is perpetuated to give people a false sense of security. Physician are under only the most basic Guidelines to record anything about the Visit. Even when that information could prevent a death, or other adverse event, it is usually not recorded. People would be shocked to see some of their “Records.” The most basic Information they relayed to their Physician might not even be mentioned. They practice “Defensive Medicine.” The Patient would notice that the Side Effects of a Medication were not written down. Only the most minimally required Information will be there, they are important for Billing.
    ,

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