If you are like so many other Americans, you rely on your primary care
physician and other doctors you see regularly for guidance on your health
and wellness, as well as controlling medical conditions. That doctor-patient
relationship you have established with certain practitioners is invaluable,
so when it gets removed without notice or reason, it can be quite damaging.
In fact, it can be so damaging, it might even constitute a form of medical
malpractice called patient abandonment.
What is Patient Abandonment?
At the surface, patient abandonment is simply when a physician decides
to terminate a doctor-patient relationship without providing any adequate
reasoning to said patient, and usually with no warning whatsoever. However,
patient abandonment only becomes an issue worthy of a potential lawsuit
if certain conditions are met, which are:
- The patient was in the midst of some form of medical treatment regimen
or scheduled care.
- The ongoing medical treatment is necessary for the patient’s health.
- The abandonment was so sudden it did not give the patient enough time to
find another physician to safely continue that ongoing medical treatment.
- The patient suffers an injury or experiences a worsening of a preexisting
condition due to the lapse of physician care caused by the patient abandonment.
Patient abandonment can also be caused by other means not exactly related
to sudden abandonment of a doctor’s responsibilities. For example,
an understaffed hospital that cannot attend to a patient in need could
technically be accountable for abandonment. Preventable failures in communication
between medical staff and a patient that lead to patient harm is also
patient abandonment, as the medical staff “gave up” on trying
to help the patient as defined in their duties.
What Isn’t Patient Abandonment?
With a cursory glance, it is easy to see many situations as patient abandonment
when in fact, with closer review, the happenstances are acceptable.
The cancelation of a doctor-patient relationship may be validated if:
- The doctor has reason to believe he or she is not trained well enough to
continue the patient’s treatment and expresses this clearly.
- It would be impossible to continue treatment due to the lack of appropriate
resources, supplies, or medications.
- It is reasonable to assume the patient no longer wishes to continue the
doctor-patient relationship due to multiple missed appointments.
- The doctor has reason to believe continuation of the treatment would be
unethical; in such a situation, the doctor should attempt to find another
solution or refer the patient to another doctor.
- The patient disobeys a doctor’s orders, becomes abusive, or otherwise
violates accepted policies of the physician or medical institution.
The nuances between what is and what is
not patient abandonment can seem understandably confusing if you are not well-versed
in medical malpractice law. Rather than trying to interpret the complexities
of legislation and legalese yourself, team up with Christian & Davis
LLC and our Greenville medical malpractice attorneys. We can help you
determine if you have a valid patient abandonment case during a
free initial consultation. If you do, be sure to ask about our contingency fees – a “no
recovery, no fee” system that takes the risk out of your lawsuit
– one more reason why so many
clients choose us.