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Is Leaving the Hospital Putting You at Risk for Wrongful Death? Why Discharge Time Is So Dangerous

Hospital discharge is usually a time that patients look forward to. Unfortunately, however, it is also one of the most dangerous times for patients, and can actually lead to wrongful death. If you’ve ever been discharged from a hospital, you know that it can be quite a confusing time as many people are involved in the process. Additionally, patients are often eager to leave, and may be unclear about all of the information that is given to them. In fact, according to a Washington Post article, fewer than half of patients feel confident that they understand the instructions given to them at the time of discharge. As a result, grave mistakes can be made, and people can die because of it.

Why Hospital Discharge Can Cause Wrongful Death

Although discharge for any patient can be problematic, it seems that it is even more so for patients who leave the hospital and require additional care from home health providers or nursing homes. Bad coordination and communication among the providers is one of the assumed reasons for the errors, but health care officials aren’t sure of the definite causes.

In a study conducted between January 2010 and July 2015 by Kaiser Health News, inspectors identified 3,016 home health agencies that had inadequately reviewed or tracked medications for new patients. Additionally, some nurses failed to realize that patients were taking potentially dangerous combinations of drugs, which could possibly cause seizures, kidney damage, bleeding, and abnormal heart rhythms.

Although the exact reason for the errors is unclear, a lack of help from Congress could be to blame. The government appropriated $30 billion to help the medical industry shift to the use of electronic medical records, a measure thought to ensure better coordination of care and reduce errors. None of the money, however, went to rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, or providers who worked with patients in their homes. This lack of connectivity between hospitals and aftercare could lead to the errors.

A 2013 government report revealed that more than a third of facilities did not properly assess patients’ needs, devise plans, and then follow through with them. Additionally, government inspectors commonly identify failures to create and execute care plans at home health agencies, and also find problems with medication reviews. In fact, from 2010 to 2015, more than 1,500 agencies had defects that inspectors considered to be so substantial that they threatened to remove them from Medicaid unless the problems were resolved.

The Most Common Error

Perhaps the most common error regarding hospital discharge has to do with medication. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists often make mistakes when reviewing medications and can either miss potentially fatal interactions, or even administer the wrong type.

Such was the case with Joyce Oyler, who was discharged from a Missouri hospital and died a few weeks later. The culprit was a toxic drug that was given by mistake. Instead of receiving a drug that prevents heart patients from retaining liquid, Oyler received a medication with a similar name that is used to treat cancer patients and those with arthritis. Oyler was taking a large dose of the medication—much larger than what is normal for this particular drug—which resulted in damage to her bone marrow that was so severe, her body wasn’t able to create blood cells, and she passed away because of it. This error was missed by many people, including her pharmacist and her home health providers.

Don’t Let This Injustice Happen to Those You Love

If your loved one was the victim of wrongful death that was caused by a medical care provider’s mistake, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation. The legal team of Wayne Wright has helped many families in the Austin area receive the help and justice they needed and deserved. Schedule an appointment to speak with one of our legal professionals about your situation by calling 800-237-3334.