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“Patient dumping” victimizes vulnerable patients

When you or a loved one visit the emergency room, you expect quality care. You would also expect that when it is time for your discharge, the medical staff would make sure you had a safe ride home or a place to go. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for those who visit hospitals in Illinois and elsewhere. A recent story has brought the seldom-heard-about issue of “patient dumping” to the public’s awareness.

In the story, reported by The Washington Post, a man took a video of a woman who was left outside a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in freezing winter temperatures. The woman appeared confused and unable to function, and was wearing only socks and a hospital gown. After the man called authorities, the woman was readmitted to the hospital, then later sent to a homeless shelter, where her family came to pick her up. Reportedly, the young woman had a mental illness and had been missing for two weeks.

Numerous incidents of patient dumping across the country

Sadly, this story is not unique. There have been numerous incidents across many states, in which hospital staff has released patients without proper treatment, put them on buses that drove out of state or sent them to homeless shelters that had no room for them. In one incident, a diabetic man was released from the hospital despite being unable to walk, and a vehicle struck him when he stumbled into the street. He later sued the hospital for $100 million, after a head injury from the accident left him disabled.

Patient dumping may violate federal law

You might find it interesting that prematurely releasing a patient or letting him or her go in unsafe conditions may violate the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, which has been in effect since 1986. This law also gives patients the right to emergency services whether or not they have the ability to pay.

Hopefully, you or your family members will never experience substandard treatment from hospital staff. As the saying goes, it helps to arm yourself with knowledge, and it can help to understand that it goes against a law and against basic human decency to abandon a patient after a hospital discharge.

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