Can a Hospital Force You to Stay? – Overview
In rare cases, a patient can be discharged against their consent, known as “involuntary discharge.” Long-term care patients can be discharged from hospitals with the necessary safety and follow-up instructions, regardless of their condition.
Additionally, even if your healthcare provider believes you should stay, you can leave anytime. However, the discharge documentation will show the departure “against medical advice (AMA)”.
If the doctor believes you are ready to leave, the hospital needs to discharge you promptly, and if you want to leave without the doctor’s permission, the hospital has to allow you to leave.
Can a Doctor Make You Leave a Hospital Prematurely?
Generally, your doctor has a right to deny hospitalization for the most part. However, when a doctor plans to end your care, it depends on their decision only. No rule requires doctors to serve a patient if the doctor no longer wishes to care for the patient or does not wish to treat the patient.
However, you can still refuse discharge from a hospital. You can contact the hospital if you are dissatisfied with the discharge proposal. To do this, you must provide a written statement detailing your concerns.
In addition, you should speak to the hospital’s Risk Manager and inform them of your concern. Finally, you can simply refuse to leave a hospital if the hospital offers what you believe is an inappropriate discharge.
There may be instances when a patient refuses to leave a hospital. Such cases usually occur when a patient has been discharged from the hospital, but the doctor expects them to return for additional treatments shortly. With time, primary care physicians can support your concern about inappropriate discharge by providing collateral and additional evidence.
However, you don’t necessarily have to stay in the hospital once you have been medically cleared to leave. In such cases, the hospital must discharge the patient without delay. This scenario relates to when you wish to leave the hospital despite your doctor advising against it.
Can a Hospital Force You to Stay?
Yes. The hospital can force you to stay if the doctor or hospital staff considers you to likely harm yourself or others (keep you involuntarily admitted). Generally, if you disagree with the hospital’s decision to keep you, you can file a written complaint to the tribunal.
Any person admitted to a hospital has the right to stay there until they, or their physician, feel that they are well enough to be discharged. A patient cannot be discharged if the insurance company says so. Additionally, hospitals cannot force patients to be discharged if the hospital needs their bed for another patient.
If you are 13 years or older, you can request to view your medical records. If you don’t understand something, you can also request an explanation of the information within your medical records. In such cases, the hospital should send your medical record to a person with the right to make medical decisions for you.
A legal representative, such as a parent, guardian, or translator, can communicate with you regularly. Additionally, if you are not in your faculties during hospitalization, you can ask for another doctor or hospital to monitor your progress.
How Long Can a Hospital Hold a Patient?
A hospital can hold you for a maximum of 72 hours. The most common reason for the hold is when the patient is in grave condition or immediate danger to themselves or others. Depending on their circumstances, three different criteria allow hospitals to hold a patient involuntarily.
In contrast, no hospital or doctor can force a patient to take action if they are competent and refuse to receive any medical treatment.
Can a Patient Refuse to Be Discharged?
Yes, a patient can refuse discharge from a hospital. However, the hospital may use the involuntary discharge option in such instances. The hospital will need to follow certain steps before giving involuntary discharge, including providing patients with notice and an opportunity to appeal the discharge decision before a tribunal.
Though you are not required to leave, you will likely be charged for the hospital services. Therefore, knowing your rights and the procedure for appealing is necessary. Regardless that you may not always win this appeal, this procedure can provide additional Medicare benefits.
On the other hand, if you are dissatisfied with the hospital’s discharge decision, you should contact the hospital directly with a written appeal. Ensure you notify the hospital’s Risk Manager that you are unsatisfied with the hospital’s decision to discharge you. If the hospital offers a discharge that is not satisfactory as a patient, you have the right to refuse.
Additionally, the doctor can provide a non-discriminatory reason before discharging you. However, this procedure can be quite complex in some cases. Doctors must avoid making claims of patient abandonment to prevent facing legal trouble.
When Can a Patient Be Forced to Leave?
As a patient, you may only sometimes be able to check yourself out of a hospital. This is usually when someone else is legally responsible for you.
For instance, you may lose the right to voluntarily discharge yourself if you are temporarily committed to a psychiatric hold or are declared incompetent by a Court of Law. This can happen if you are suffering from the following:
- Behavioral health problem
- Substance abuse problem
- Considered as a threat to yourself or others
The hospital has the right to petition the court, and if the court agrees, you can be forced to be hospitalized temporarily.
Finally, after you relinquish control over medical decisions to the court, your competence will be re-determined to resume making them.
In short, a patient can be discharged if the doctor believes he or she is sufficiently treated. However, the doctor nor the hospital can force you to leave immediately. If you believe your discharge is premature, you must write an application to the hospital’s Risk Manager and a tribunal.