Woman abandoned by doctor.

In 2003, a patient with high risk pregnancies was under the care of doctors at the Obstetrics Clinic of the University Of Michigan. The patient became pregnant after suffering a miscarriage and was scheduled for a cerclage. When her doctor learned she had filed a lawsuit against another doctor at the office (for her first miscarriage), he informed her he would not perform the procedure. The cerclage was performed four days later by another obstetrician. The patient subsequently suffered another miscarriage. She filed a lawsuit for patient abandonment.

Sometimes, medical malpractice can be pretty easy to spot. When people hear those words, their minds often wander to surgical mistakes such as:

  • Leaving medical devices inside of patients after a surgery
  • Performing an incorrect surgery
  • Administering the wrong medication

But there are many cases of medical malpractice that are more difficult to identify. In fact, oftentimes patients have no idea they’ve been the victim of malpractice – until they talk to a professional. 

And sometimes that medical malpractice can look like patient abandonment. It happens more often than you’d think.

Woman upset and anxious.

What Is Patient Abandonment?

Patient abandonment, often referred to as medical abandonment or dumping, is when a medical provider terminates treatment and ends a relationship with a patient. The provision of care is ends prematurely. 

When patients require immediate or long-term care, it is the doctor’s and medical facility’s responsibility to ensure care is provided in a timely manner. If the current provider for some reason cannot continue to provide care, it is their responsibility to set their patient up with another facility and provider who can. Ceasing the provision of care before it is medically reasonable can cause harm to a patient. And that’s where a lawsuit can come into play.

Examples Of Patient Abandonment

If you’re unclear of what patient abandonment might look like, here are some scenarios that can result in a lawsuit:

  • If a doctor refuses to treat a patient at a critical stage because the patient has failed to pay his or her medical bill
  • The doctor is unavailable to the patient for an unreasonable amount of time – and during this time the patient suffers harm
  • A medical facility fails to reach out to the patient for an important follow-up appointment
  • When a doctor doesn’t assist a patient in establishing care at another facility when he/she can no longer provide care
  • If a doctor doesn’t adequately communicate with the new doctor after transferring a patient; the first doctor has an obligation to provide the second doctor with all critical information including lab results, medical records, instructions, and treatment notes.

Patient Abandonment In The Emergency Room

In 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act came into fruition. This law ensured patients had access to emergency services regardless of their ability to pay or their citizenship status. Refusing emergency treatment to a patient when it is medically critical is a form of patient abandonment.

Proving Malpractice

A doctor can be held liable for medical malpractice if he or she operates outside the standard of care and a patient consequently suffers. 

Ask yourself, “Would a similarly skilled medical professional have provided me with the same care and treatment under the same circumstances?” If the answer is no, and you’ve suffered harm because of sub-standard care, you may have a case for malpractice.

A medical malpractice case requires you to first outline this standard of care. Second, you must prove the doctor “breached” this standard of care and acted negligently. An expert attorney can help paint a picture of how the care provided to you was substandard. 

Patient Abandonment Damages And Compensation

If a doctor ceases the treatment of a patient because of valid excuses, and further sets the patient up with another doctor and care is continued in a proper manner, abandonment has not occurred. However, sometimes the doctor will terminate a relationship so abruptly and improperly, it can cause the patient to suffer. 

Here are just some results of a doctor’s negligence:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills and costs of additional treatments
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of earning capacity

Older woman wipes tears away.

Talk To A Medical Malpractice Attorney

Identifying a patient abandonment case can be tricky. Proving it in court is another ball game altogether. Speaking to an attorney with years of experience in medical malpractice can help. Here at Hampton & King, we understand that suffering physically, emotionally, and financially due to negligence is not okay. That’s why we work hard to get you the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact our office today to set up a consultation and discuss your patient abandonment case. Don’t worry, it’s on us!