Getting discharged from hospital is usually a happy event. But if a doctor gives you or a family member the marching orders prematurely, it may lead to serious harm – and this may be a basis for a medical negligence claim.
When early patient discharge constitutes medical malpractice
Early patient discharge doesn’t automatically amount to medical malpractice. Hundreds of thousands of patients are sent home “early”, and suffer no serious complications as a result.
For a medical malpractice claim to exist, there has to be evidence that the healthcare professional acted, or failed to act, according to accepted standards of medical care. There also has to be proof that the injury or harm sustained by the patient was a direct result of premature discharge.
Where early discharge has resulted in serious harm, the victim may qualify for compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering. A close family member of someone who has died as a result of early discharge may also have a claim.
Early discharge negligence: infants most at risk
Worldwide, the majority of early patient discharge negligence cases involve infants. New-born babies are susceptible to a range of high-risk complications. As a result, it’s considered best practice to monitor mother and child for a minimum period after delivery.
As a general rule, infants shouldn’t be discharged until:
- their vital signs have been monitored for 12 consecutive hours
- they have had at least two successful feeds
- they have urinated and passed at least one stool
- their hearing and eyesight have been medically assessed.
If you and your new-born baby were sent home before the protocols and procedures outlined above were met and your infant’s health was seriously compromised as a result, we recommend that you contact a medical malpractice lawyer.
When early hospital discharge of adults constitutes malpractice
The long-term recovery of patients who’ve undergone invasive surgeries depends on comprehensive infection control and suitable monitoring.
Patients’ health may also depend on proper medical testing – as well as testing of medical devices, such as pacemakers – before they’re discharged from hospital.
The responsibility lies with attending doctors to determine that their patients are medically stable, and that the associated risks are negligible, before they are sent home.
Unfortunately, many South African hospitals face overcrowding and pressure for beds may contribute to early discharge decisions.
If a doctor or hospital discharges you or a family member before follow-up visits or treatment have been scheduled, proper testing has been concluded and/or medical stability has been achieved – and serious health complications, injuries or even death results – there may be grounds for a medical negligence claim.
Proving an early hospital discharge malpractice claim
To pursue an early discharge malpractice claim, the claimant has to prove that the doctor acted contrary to standard medical procedure and that harm was suffered as a result.
That means you’ll need the testimony of one or more expert healthcare professionals to back up your claim that the decision to discharge deviated from the accepted standard of medical care. A medical expert will also have to provide detailed information on how you or a family member were harmed as a direct result of the decision.
How DSC Attorneys can assist
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in medical malpractice claims. Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.
Contact us for the very best legal support and representation. Note that we work on a “no win, no fee” basis.