Tossed to the Side: The Dangerous Truth Behind Patient Dumping

Everyone should be entitled to basic medical care for his or her needs, right? There are laws established to protect patients’ rights to emergency health care, regardless of ability to pay, mental status, or many other reasons. But, what happens when health care providers give patients the cold shoulder, casting them off for others to deal with? The term that is used to describe this skirting of medical responsibility is known as “patient dumping,” and can result in serious consequences for all parties involved.

What is patient dumping?

Patient dumping, in a nutshell, occurs when a hospital deters or transfers a patient onto another health care facility, or simply denies offering care, even though the hospital is equipped and capable of providing the necessary care needed.

Patient dumping typically occurs when a patient does not have the financial means to pay for their medical care, and the hospital becomes aware of the fact prior to offering services.

What is the danger of patient dumping?
  • Refusing to admit patients promptly, or transferring them to other facilities, can cause serious medical conditions to worsen, or even new medical complications to develop. ER doctors may try to curb their responsibilities by making “physician referrals.” However, failing to offer immediate medical care can result in preventable, or wrongful death, or serious complication injuries. Symptoms can escalate or worsen quickly.
  • Others can be hurt as a result of patient dumping, too. One documented case of Patient Dumping involved a father and his son, who suffered with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder. The boy had a past history or violence, suicidal thoughts, and threatening behavior. The father brought his son to the ER, and was told that the boy should be transferred to a different facility. Except, they requested that the father transport his son to a new facility, despite the fact that he had been making threats at his father prior to arriving at the hospital.
  • Mental Health patients can be taken advantage of unknowingly, being put into potentially dangerous situations, having their rights violated. One well-known case made national news headlines in 2013 when it was discovered that hospitals in Nevada were bussing out patients to other states, leaving them helpless and unaware of their circumstances. This is a serious problem for patients living with mental illness, whose families don’t always know the details of their sick loved ones. In cases like this particular one, patients’ families weren’t notified, and the ill individuals were left abandoned and alone.

Patient Dumping is a serious problem, frequently causing serious injury or death to patients who simply want proper care in an emergency. Although the practice does not always happen directly, hospitals can easily have ambulances diverted to other hospitals farther away as an alternative. Even though Patient Dumping is illegal, it doesn’t stop numerous hospitals from participating in the practice.

Have more questions? We may be able to help you understand the connection between your medical injuries and a potential patient dumping case. Please contact our offices to find out more about your rights.

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