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Doctor’s Negligence

When is a Doctor Guilty of Negligence Regarding Early Discharge?

A doctor’s negligence in prematurely discharging a patient from hospital can lead to serious injury or even death. In such an instance, the patient or in the instance of a deceased patient, their loved one or their guardian has the right to claim compensation for the injury and damages suffered.

In many instances of early discharge, complications from a medical procedure or underlying conditions only become noticeable once the patient is not under constant medical monitoring and care. With the patient not being within easy reach of the doctor, the doctor may not be able to respond quickly enough and this may cause the patient to suffer severe injury. Since it is the responsibility of the medical staff to determine that the patient is sufficiently stable, and the risks minimised, before discharging a patient, such injuries suffered are the result of medical negligence.

An infant that is discharged early may be particularly at risk of developing serious health or medical conditions. The doctor is guilty of negligence if they have not followed the correct procedures in determining whether, for instance, an infant is healthy enough to be discharged, including checking for vital signs for a period of twelve hours. They should also have checked that the child had successful feedings, that a minimum of one stool has been passed, that urination has taken place, that the child’s hearing has been tested, and that the risk factors have been assessed.

There must have been a doctor-patient relationship and the doctor must have deviated from normal procedure, not have provided medical care or diagnosis according to reasonable standards, and the child must have suffered injury as the result of it.

It should be noted that an early discharge is not enough cause for suspecting doctor’s negligence. If the patient has not suffered injury as the result thereof, it is not malpractice or negligence. If the patient is readmitted to hospital, the readmission procedure must also be assessed. Note that if the emergency treatment results in damage, then the treatment should be assessed. However, if the patient’s early discharge led to the emergency treatment and a mistake was made during the process, one first has to determine whether the mistake could have been avoided if the patient was not discharged early in the first place.

There is no specific timeframe for keeping patients in hospital. Malpractice or a doctor’s negligence is determined by looking at factors such as whether the relevant standard of medical care has been given in comparison to what a reasonable doctor would have done under the same circumstances. Other factors such as whether the doctor did perform the necessary tests to determine the health of the patient, whether vital signs have been monitored, whether a follow-up treatment or visit has been scheduled, and whether the doctor has taken the necessary steps to check for and treat possible underlying medical conditions must be considered.

If you or your child has suffered injury because of early discharge, it is essential to seek legal guidance to determine whether the injury came about as the result of the hospital or doctor’s negligence.


Note that the information in this article is for information purposes only and should not be seen as an attempt to provide legal advice. We strongly recommend that you contact us at Adele van der Walt Incorporated for professional legal advice.

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