Patient Abandonment – Home Health Care

Elements of the Cause of Action Presso Graphy  for Abandonment

Each of the following five elements must be present for a patient to have a proper civil cause of action for the tort of abandonment:

1. Healthcare treatment was unreasonably discontinued.

2. Terminating health care was contrary to the patient’s will or without the patient’s knowledge.

3. The health care provider failed to arrange care by another appropriately skilled provider.

4. The health care provider should have reasonably foreseen that harm to the patient would arise from the termination of the care (proximate cause).

5. The patient suffered harm or loss due to discontinuing care.

Physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals have an ethical, as well as a legal, duty to avoid the abandonment of patients. The health care professional must give their patient all necessary attention as long as the case requires it and should not leave the patient in a critical stage without giving reasonable notice or making suitable arrangements for attendance. [2]


Abandonment by the Physician

When a physician undertakes patient treatment, treatment must continue until the patient’s circumstances no longer warrant the treatment. The physician and the patient mutually consent to end the treatment by that physician, or the patient discharges the physician. Moreover, the physician may unilaterally terminate the relationship and withdraw from treating that patient only if they provide the patient proper notice of their intent to cancel and an opportunity to obtain appropriate substitute care.

Patient Abandonment - Home Health Care 1

In the home health setting, the physician-patient relationship does not terminate merely because a patient’s care shifts in its location from the hospital to the home. Suppose the patient needs medical services, supervised health care, therapy, or other home health services. In that case, the attending physician should ensure they properly discharge their duties to the patient. Virtually every situation ‘in which home care is approved by Medicare, Medicaid, or an insurer will be one in which the patients ‘needs for care have continued.

The physician-patient relationship in the hospital will continue unless it has been formally terminated by notice to the patient and a reasonable attempt to refer the patient to another appropriate physician. Otherwise, the physician will retain their duty toward the patient when discharged from the hospital to the home. Failure to follow through on the part of the physician will constitute the tort of abandonment if the patient is injured as a result. This abandonment may expose the physician, the hospital, and the home health agency to liability for the tort of abandonment.

The attending physician in the hospital should ensure that a proper referral is made to a physician responsible for the home health patient’s care. In contrast, the home health provider delivers it unless the physician intends to continue supervising that home care personally. Even more importantly, if the hospital-based physician arranges to have the patient’s care assumed by another physician, the patient must fully understand this change. It should be carefully documented, Net Maddy.

Roberto Brock
the authorRoberto Brock
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