Do You Have the Right to Leave the Hospital When You Want To?

Know What Your Rights Are for Hospital Discharge

patient with suitcase ready to leave hospital room
Martin Barraud/caiaimages/Getty Images

A Maryland man is suing a hospital because they wouldn't let him leave. From that simple statement, we can ask the question - does a patient have the right to leave a hospital? The simple answer is yes. Most of the time, except in cases of a diagnosis of a mental illness, a patient has a right to leave a hospital.

Discharge the Hard Way - Man Fears Medical Error and Battles His Way Out of the Hospital

As you can imagine, in this man's case, nothing was simple.

He is claiming that after being taken to the ER as a result of a car accident, he awoke the next morning and was told he was on his way to surgery to remove a cancerous mass from his chest.

Then, he claims, he looked at the bracelet on his wrist only to discover it was a woman's name - certainly not his, anyway. Fearful they had him mixed up with someone else, and that a surgeon would be cracking open his chest, he tried to leave, and at that point was detained. That detention, according to the lawsuit he has filed, consisted of having profanities shouted at him, shoving and beating. It seems they were trying to get the bracelet off of him and wouldn't let him leave until they could get it.

Of course, I know nothing about this case except what I read in the news. But I can draw a few conclusions from it. I'm guessing he saw that wrong bracelet and:

  • 1. it scared him
  • 2. he was not ready to let somebody else take it because he knew he had proof of something - even if he wasn't sure what.

    I'm also guessing the doctor or nurse or someone from the hospital realized the mistake had been made and that someone would be culpable - so his or her mission was to get the bracelet off that man and get rid of it. To that end, security was called and told on no uncertain terms to get that bracelet.

     The entire scenario descended from there. The hospital could not afford for that man to walk out the door.

    If you think this kind of problem is unusual, think again. The details will vary, but every day there are these kinds of rights violations - and mistakes - taking place in hospitals. Many examples were given by people commenting on the original story.

    Know Your Discharge Rights - You Have a Right to Leave the Hospital

    The bottom line is that patients do need to know their rights. Unless you have a mental health issue, you have the right to leave a hospital. Fighting your way out through the security guards certainly isn't the best approach. But if you really do want to leave, don't get yourself worked up into a fight - they can and will use it against you.

    I should note that this is the opposite of the complaint I hear more frequently. Usually the hospital wants to discharge the patient, likely because his or her insurance will no longer pick up the tab, and patients complain because they want to stay!  And yes, there is a protocol for refusing discharge if you need it.

    Learn more about choosing to leave the hospital against medical advice.

    Continue Reading