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Hospital Liability for Refusing to Admit or Treat a Patient

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Can Hospitals Refuse to Admit or Treat Certain Patients Without Incurring Liability?

Yes.  Courts recognize that there is rising number of patients needing medical attention despite a growing shortage in hospital space.  As a result, courts employ the general rule that a hospital has no obligation to help every patient that walks through its doors.

Are there any Exceptions to this Rule?

Yes.  In many cases, a hospital can be held liable for refusing to treat a seriously hurt person in an emergency situation.  Courts realize that emergency room (ER) patients generally need immediate medical attention, and failure to treat them is more than likely to lead to an aggravated injury or even death.

Does it Matter Who Refuses to Provide Treatment?

Yes.  The person who refuses medical treatment to a patient must be an employee of the hospital.  In addition, that person must have the authorization to determine what patients can or cannot received treatment.  In most cases, this includes treating physicians, nurses, or other medical staff in charge of patient assignments.

Is the Reason for Refusing to Admit or Treat a Patient Important?

Yes, in some cases.  Where a physician's refusal to provide treatment was based on a medical determination (i.e. the doctor concludes that the patient's condition doesn't require medical attention), some courts consider this a reasonable exercise of judgment.  As a result, the hospital will not be found liable.  In contrast, if a physican refuses to admit or treat a patient without even considering their current medical condition, some courts have found a hospital to be liable.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

If you have been denied admittance or treatment by a hospital, suffering consequential injuries in the process, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately to assert your rights.  An experienced personal injury lawyer can examine the overall strength of your case, noting any exceptions to the general rule on hospital treatment that exist in your state.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-05-2018 08:50 PM PST

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