Dementia Care Patient Found Dead In The Woods
A recent death involving a dementia care patient who was discharged from the hospital and later found dead in the woods is making headlines after the family spoke out about his death. The hospital released the patient, who was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s without notifying the family. The man wandered out of the hospital without knowing who he was or where he was going and died as a result.
Discharging a patient is a medical decision under the law. Healthcare workers have some authority when it comes to discharging a patient who cannot care for themselves. It is the hospital’s responsibility to ensure that the patient is discharged to a safe environment when they have mental health concerns.
According to the man’s daughter, she had dropped him off at the hospital for a mental health evaluation. When she returned, the hospital told her that he had been discharged. The daughter informed the hospital that the patient did not know who he was and was suffering from advanced dementia.
Her local community joined forces to send out a search party for the man but they did not find him until it was too late. The family also contends that the hospital refused to release surveillance footage of the incident which could have given investigators some idea where he went.
Patient abandonment and premature discharge lawsuits are a type of medical malpractice lawsuit that alleges a doctor abruptly terminated a doctor-patient relationship while the patient was still at-risk and without referring them to another doctor. So, first, you have to establish that there was a doctor-patient relationship. Then you must establish that the doctor terminated the relationship while the patient was still at risk and without finding suitable help. One last requirement is that the patient does not have time to seek out another doctor. In other words, it’s a defense for a doctor to claim that the patient had ample time to remedy a problem. There will be no such defense available to this hospital.
The hospital stands accused of discharging a dementia-care patient unsafely. At this point, they can only argue that the patient passed their mental health evaluation and appeared cogent when he was released. However, if his chart has a history of Alzheimer’s or memory care, then it’s unlikely they will be able to present a strong defense.
Premature discharge alleges that a patient is discharged from a hospital while they are still at risk. In most cases, this ends up being a misdiagnosis allegation. However, in mental health cases, this ends up not involving misdiagnosis at all, but rather an inaccurate assessment of the patient’s current mental state. These are much more difficult to prove since it involves the subjective opinion of a treating physician. However, those who are injured after a discharge may be able to bring a lawsuit only if the treating physician had cause to know they would hurt themselves or someone else if discharged.
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