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Patient Abandonment & Medical Malpractice


When a doctor is unavailable for an unreasonably long period of time when the patient requires immediate medical attention or the hospital is inadequately understaffed, a patient may file a medical malpractice lawsuit if he/she suffered an injury due to “patient abandonment.”  

In general, patient abandonment occurs when a physician ends the relationship between him/her and the patient without a reasonable excuse or notice and fails to find a qualified replacement to care for the patient. 

The following are the four elements of patient abandonment: 

  1. There is an established doctor-patient relationship, meaning the physician agreed to treat the patient and the treatment is underway. 

  1. The doctor abandons the patient during the “critical stage”—when he/she requires medical attention—of the treatment process. 

  1. The abandonment was so abrupt that the patient failed to obtain a proper replacement doctor to handle the treatment in a timely manner. 

  1. The patient suffered an injury directly because of the abandonment. 

Additionally, other health care providers besides doctors can be accused of patient abandonment. For example, if a nurse has been tasked to care for a patient and the same elements mentioned above apply, then the patient may file a claim on the ground of patient abandonment. 

Common examples of patient abandonment include: 

  • Inadequate staffing at a hospital 

  • Forgetting to contact a patient about missing an important follow-up appointment 

  • Failing to ask an urgent question to a doctor (on behalf of the patient) 

  • Scheduling an appointment so far in advance that the patient’s condition worsened over time 

On the other hand, if a doctor has a valid reason to end his/her relationship with a patient, then he/she may avoid liability. Common examples of valid reasons include having insufficient skills to adequately treat the patient, legal or ethical conflicts, or the patient violates health care or hospital policies. 

If a doctor has a valid reason, he/she should provide the patient with a written notice of termination along with an explanation. In the meantime, the doctor is obligated to recommend another qualified physician and continue treating the patient to give the patient time to find a replacement. 

If you are interested in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Weston, FL, call Rash Mueller at (954) 914-7116 or complete our online contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Let our experienced and award-winning legal team protect your rights, best interests, and health. 

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