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What is Patient Abandonment?

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Were you or a close family member undergoing medical treatment only to be left in the lurch? Not literally left in the hallway, that happens all the time. But outright left without medical care, or access to a properly trained person to administer the care needed for recovery or even survival?

It sounds dramatic, but it's real, and it happens more often than anyone would like. Patient abandonment leads to deaths and harm that can't be undone.

Key Aspects of Patient Abandonment

So there are a few aspects of patient abandonment that outline the expectations of medical treatment and medical care. To lay things out clearly, no doctor is required to treat every patient they meet. However, if they agree to take on the patient, they become responsible for that patient’s care.

That’s the first element of patient abandonment. They must have an established relationship. That means that they must have agreed to treat the person for the medical issue described, which means that you can't show up complaining of anxiety and be surprised when the doctor refuses to provide cancer treatment.

Then there's the element of timing. The aspect of time means that the abandonment occurs during a critical stage where the patient needed medical attention and treatment. In one such case, a doctor who refuses to provide treatment because they were told that the patient wouldn't be able to pay their hospital bill, that is abandonment. Whereas a doctor deciding that they don't have the specialty or expertise in a critical moment is not patient abandonment.

Finally, the person must have taken on injuries as a result of the abandonment. A person left unattended during surgery for too long or left without treatment for an illness who suffered, does count as patient abandonment.

What Is and Isn’t Patient Abandonment

There are a few examples above, but overall those were to explain the reasoning behind certain requirements for patient abandonment. When it comes to the actual application, however, the topics become a little trickier.

Can a doctor refuse to continue treatment at any time? Basically, yes, but they have to have a good reason. Or, their actions must be justified. It’s common for doctors to realize that they’ve overbooked their schedules or aren’t the right doctor for the patient’s needs. There are, however, things that they should do in this event. Offering referrals and making sure that they can transition to someone who can deliver proper care is critical. Not doing so is negligent.

There are times when doctors unknowingly abandon their patients because they simply can't fit into their schedule. Then there is the issue of inability to pay. Essentially the healthcare system tells doctors and hospitals to not worry about payment. It's not like your car, where the dealer can repo your vehicle if you don't keep up with the payments.

Medical care is more important than collecting the bill. That means that the need for emergency surgery doesn’t have any justified reason for abandonment.

Starting a Case

If you suffered because your doctor and their backup colleague that most doctors have in place were not available, then you probably have a case. However, these cases aren't easy. First, you need to prove that damage came from your doctor's abandonment of your medical care.

Second, there's the matter of collecting evidence. Usually, doctors will involve their attorneys right away, and they may have insurance in place to handle these issues. That can make things like recovering the doctor's notes or scheduling books difficult. Often these cases will move forward to court rather than having a quiet settlement unless there is a vast amount of evidence against the doctor.

Finally, you'll want to show the extent of malpractice or injury. In many of these situations, if someone needed emergency surgery, then it's not simply a malpractice case but also a wrongful death case.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys See this All the Time

Handling a medical malpractice case isn't easy. Doctors have many barriers put into place to make it impossible for patients to paint them in a bad light. But honestly, patient abandonment is quite frequent. Not only do doctors step away from high-risk patients, but they do it at times when other doctors will likely not pick up the case.

Reach out to the law offices of Young, Reverman, and Mazzei to begin exposing the doctor or medical team that abandoned you. This form of medical malpractice is neglectful, and unforgivable considering the life-threatening consequences it could mean for you or another patient. Schedule a consultation now.

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