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Numerous medical malpractice cases stem from discharges that should not have happened.

Steven E. North, Esq.


Who Should Discharge a Patient from the Hospital? and When?

"You're good to go. I'm discharging you." To whom does that responsibility belong when the best interests of a patient are taken into regard?

Numerous medical malpractice cases stem from discharges that should not have happened. The lion's share originates from poor judgment in the emergency department. When a patient suffering from evidence of a heart attack, bowel obstruction, appendicitis attack or other acute condition is prematurely released, the outcome - without timely treatment - can be fatal. The same can happen when a person admitted for treatment is discharged when there may be evidence of an infection that needs more acute attention or a disease that s not properly documented.

A patient should insist that his or her attending physician completes a pre-discharge evaluation and signs off on the release, that the proper medications are in hand or have been ordered, and that the follow-up course is clear. It is the attending physician who is generally most familiar with a patient's course of treatment and health status. When a patient is handed off to a "stranger," a healthcare provider who really has no personal contact with the patient other than at discharge, there can very well be a lack of communication or consideration which can lead to dire consequences.

Today, a growing number of hospitals employ hospitalists, physicians charged with assuming a patient's care after the attending specialist addresses the primary concern. Nevertheless, the attending physician whose care was sought should take the responsibility of assuring or at least confirming that the proper course was followed.

Some information for this post comes from the September 2016 edition of Medscape.com