Discharged Too Early from the Hospital — Medical Malpractice?

Written by Atlee Hall

Few people expect to end up in the hospital, so for many, the best part of a hospital stay is being discharged and allowed to go home. You should know the next steps in treating your injury or illness when you leave. But if you’re released before you should be, your condition could worsen, and you could wind up back in a hospital bed.

Being discharged prematurely can have major consequences and might even constitute medical malpractice in some cases.

What Is Premature Discharge?

Premature discharge occurs when a doctor or hospital releases a patient before being medically ready. This can occur in several situations, such as if a patient is discharged too soon following an ER visit or after surgery if they haven’t been adequately monitored after the procedure.

Premature discharge of newborns is a common scenario where negligence can occur. Before leaving the hospital, newborns should undergo routine screenings and meet health indicators such as having stable vital signs and successful feedings.

If a newborn is discharged without being thoroughly screened and meeting the recommended indicators, they could suffer avoidable harm.

Why Does Premature Discharge Happen?

Premature discharge often happens due to overcrowding or understaffing — both common problems in healthcare, especially in ER settings. A doctor’s negligence could also lead to premature discharge if they decide that a patient is medically ready to leave before they actually are.

When premature discharge happens because of negligence and a patient suffers further injuries because of it, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.

Medical Errors Caused by Premature Discharge

Being released from the hospital too early can lead to several types of errors resulting in misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and more.

Failure to Complete and Communicate Workup

When you’re admitted to the hospital, your doctor should order appropriate exams and diagnostic tests to identify your injury or illness and devise a treatment plan. Problems stemming from this can arise when the hospital doctor wants you to have follow-up work done by your primary care physician (PCP) but doesn’t relay that to the PCP. If the communication doesn’t make it through the proper channels in time, you could experience a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.

Failure to Get Your Test Results

Patients may also be discharged before their test results have been received and analyzed. Some studies have found that pending lab test results at discharge can have “major adverse health outcomes.” Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis could result if you’re discharged, and your test results aren’t promptly received by your PCP.

Is Premature Discharge Medical Malpractice?

Being discharged too soon from the hospital may not always be medical malpractice. Your healthcare team can’t guarantee you won’t have any complications, but they should discharge you only if the chances are very low you will end up back in the hospital.

When determining whether a premature discharge is medical malpractice, the main question is if another healthcare professional with similar experience would have discharged you in a similar situation. If a qualified expert witness says no, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages resulting from medical malpractice.

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Premature Discharge Case?

A successful medical malpractice claim requires proving elements of negligence. You must show that because you were discharged too soon:

  • you developed a complication or medical issue you wouldn’t have had you not been discharged.
  • a medical issue you had at discharge worsened.
  • you suffered a harm or injury you wouldn’t have you’d not been discharged.

The key point is proving the healthcare provider’s negligence caused harm — it’s not enough to show that a patient suffered harm after a mistake was made. Damages you may be able to recover compensation for include the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Discharged Too Early from the Hospital? Call Atlee Hall Today

How early is too early to be discharged from the hospital? The answer might be complicated. But if the hospital was negligent in your treatment and didn’t meet the standard of care it should, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages.

A medical malpractice attorney at Atlee Hall can help prove you were discharged prematurely, demonstrate how you were injured by the malpractice, and help you seek justice. Our team will hear your story, explain your options, and advise you on the next steps. Even if you aren’t sure you have a case, we will answer your questions and advocate in your best interest.

Call today at (717) 393-9596 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.