Identifying Patient Abandonment in Healthcare

Medical providers must maintain a certain standard of care, and the standard is fairly universal throughout every medical profession in the US. Abandoning a patient will almost always mean that a medical professional violated the standard of care to the patient, potentially resulting in a Portland medical malpractice lawsuit. But what exactly does patient abandonment mean, and what does it look like?

Defining Patient Abandonment in Healthcare

Patient abandonment occurs when a healthcare provider prematurely ends the patient-provider relationship without reasonable notice or a suitable alternative for the continuation of necessary medical care, leaving the patient without the necessary support and treatment. This action, or lack thereof, can lead to a decline in the patient’s health condition due to the absence of proper medical attention and care.

Critical elements constituting patient abandonment include:

  • Unilateral termination. The healthcare provider decides to terminate the relationship without the patient’s consent or without providing adequate justification.
  • Lack of proper notice. The patient is not given sufficient time to find an alternative healthcare provider.
  • Discontinuation of necessary treatment. Essential medical care is withdrawn, leading to potential harm to the patient.

What Does Patient Abandonment Look Like?

The reality is that patient abandonment usually doesn’t look obvious, at least not right away. It can be hard to tell whether or not a patient has been abandoned when only looking at a snapshot of what has occurred between the patient and the medical professional. However, a closer examination of patient abandonment scenarios can uncover mistreatment.

Common scenarios of patient abandonment include:

  • Failure to follow up. Ignoring a patient’s needs for follow-up appointments, especially after initiating treatment or surgery, can have dire consequences on their recovery process.
  • Refusal to treat due to financial reasons. Denying continued care because a patient cannot afford to pay or has inadequate insurance coverage disregards the ethical obligations of healthcare providers.
  • Lack of communication. Failing to respond to a patient’s calls or inquiries about symptoms or complications related to their treatment can leave the patient in a vulnerable state, unsure of how to proceed with their care.
  • Improper referral. Discharging a patient from care without ensuring they have a proper referral to another healthcare provider capable of continuing their treatment.

Special Considerations for the Elderly and Disabled

The elderly and disabled often face higher risks of patient abandonment. Their conditions may require more attention, specialized care, and, unfortunately, sometimes more financial resources. The absence of a dedicated advocate (a family member, friend, or even a court-appointed advocate) to navigate the complexities of healthcare can leave them especially vulnerable to being overlooked or neglected by their healthcare providers.

Preventing patient abandonment and ensuring continuous, comprehensive care requires vigilance from both healthcare providers and patients’ families or advocates. Awareness and understanding of patient rights, along with the responsibilities of healthcare providers, are paramount in safeguarding against this unethical practice.

If you or somebody you love has experienced patient abandonment, we encourage you to reach out to a medical malpractice lawyer who can help you explore your options. This could be a case of medical negligence, and if you sustained any harm as a result of patient abandonment, you may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can investigate your claim and handle all communication with other parties so you can focus on recovering.