Can a Hospital Force You to Stay?

Can a Hospital Force a Patient to Stay

Patients can be held against their will under specific circumstances, such as being a danger to themselves or others, rather than discharged against their consent. Involuntary discharge typically refers to instances where a patient is removed from the hospital for non-medical reasons.

If you choose to leave the hospital against your healthcare provider’s advice, your decision will be documented as leaving ‘against medical advice (AMA)’.

If the doctor believes you are ready to leave, the hospital must discharge you promptly. If you want to leave without the doctor’s permission, the hospital must allow you to leave.

Can a Doctor Make You Leave a Hospital Prematurely

Doctors can recommend against hospitalization based on a clinical assessment of your health needs. 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, once you have been medically cleared to leave, you don’t necessarily have to stay in the hospital. 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’s advice 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 on your faculty during hospitalization, you can ask another doctor or hospital to monitor your progress.

Can a Hospital Force You to Stay

Can a Hospital Force You to Stay – How Long Can a Hospital Hold a Patient?

How Long Can a Hospital Hold a Patient

In cases involving mental health evaluations, a hospital may hold a patient for an emergency psychiatric evaluation for a period that typically does not exceed 72 hours without further legal procedure. An emergency psychiatric hold is typically initiated when a patient is deemed to pose an immediate danger to themselves or others due to a mental health condition. 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 the patient is competent and refuses medical treatment.

Can a Patient Refuse to Be Discharged

Yes, a patient can refuse discharge from a hospital. If a patient refuses discharge, the hospital must carefully assess the situation and may need to involve legal or ethical consultation rather than relying on involuntary discharge. Legal processes and patient rights vary by state for involuntary hospitalization or discharge issues, including notice and possible appeal mechanisms to ensure patient rights are protected.

Though you are not required to leave, you will likely be charged for hospital services. Therefore, it is necessary to know your rights and the appeal procedure. Although you may not always win this appeal, it 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.

See Also

Essential Hospital Equipment

How to Improve Patient Comfort

Can You File Bankruptcy on Medical Bills

Insurance Claim Types

Can an Employer Ask What Your Medical Condition Is

Can Medicaid Take Your House

Current Version
September 13, 2023
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.
March 15, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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