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Understanding patient abandonment

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Patient abandonment is a term used in the healthcare industry to describe a situation where a healthcare provider prematurely ends the provider-patient relationship without ensuring the patient has access to equivalent care and without giving the patient adequate notice to find another provider. It is considered a breach of the provider’s ethical and legal duty of care.

5 examples of patient abandonment

The details of each case are different, but some common examples include:

  1. Unannounced departure: A doctor suddenly leaves their practice without notifying patients or arranging their ongoing care.
  2. Refusal of care: A nurse refuses to attend to a patient in critical condition without a valid reason.
  3. Lack of follow-up: A surgeon needs to schedule post-operative check-ups, leaving the patient without necessary post-surgery care.
  4. Inadequate notice: A therapist ends sessions with a patient without providing reasonable notice or helping the patient find another provider.
  5. Neglect in a care facility: Staff neglects a resident’s needs, failing to provide necessary care.

Proving abandonment and the damages sufficient to pursue legal action

Patient abandonment can only potentially result in a viable legal claim if the patient suffered significant, permanent harm as a result of the abandonment, not as a result of the underlying condition or disease for which the patient was being treated before the abandonment.  This is very important to understand because it must be proven, and supported by expert testimony from physicians, that the cause of the damage was the abandonment, and not just the natural progression of the disease, or something else.  In a patient abandonment lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish that the provider had a duty of care towards him or her, that the duty was breached by abandonment, and that significant harm resulted. The plaintiff (the patient) must prove all these elements to succeed in the lawsuit. The jury considers the standard of care in the medical community, the provider’s actions, and the harm suffered by the patient.

Seeking legal help

Those who believe they’ve been a victim of patient abandonment should contact a law firm that handles medical negligence. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can guide clients through the complex legal process. Remember: patients have the right to receive adequate healthcare, and if a provider and its’ staff fail in this duty, they should be held accountable.