If one of your elderly parents visited the hospital for a medical emergency, you would hope he or she would receive the best of care and respect. Unfortunately for many residents of New York and elsewhere, they aren’t always treated the way they should be in hospitals. Some, especially the homeless and un/underinsured, are discharged after treatment in unsafe conditions or before they have fully recovered.
This practice is called patient dumping, and it is more common than you might assume. You may remember an incident that occurred last December in Baltimore, Maryland. A mentally ill woman who had been reported missing by her family was discharged from the hospital in freezing temperatures with only a hospital gown. Hospital security escorted the confused and incoherent woman to a nearby bus stop and left her there. A witness brought her back into the emergency room where she could stay warm and called authorities.
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act
A 1986 federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act prohibits medical professionals from denying treatment to people who cannot pay as well as discharging them into unsafe conditions. Sadly, patients across the country have reported being put on buses to other states by hospital staff after they were treated, put in taxis to homeless shelters or even left out in the cold without instructions or a safe ride home. One man was so disoriented that he wandered into the street and was grazed by a passing car. Many of these people were homeless, unable to pay or were without identification. In some cases, their family members thought they were missing.
Respect and dignity for all patients
If you or a loved one visits the hospital, you have the right to expect respectful and compassionate treatment, rather than to be dismissed as if your life doesn’t matter. Unprofessional treatment by hospital staff may necessitate speaking with a medical malpractice attorney.