What constitutes medical negligence and what are the potential options to correct it?

I recently brought my actively psychotic fiancé to our local crisis center/emergency room. We have

several nearby hospitals but this one specifically has mental health services, so I thought it would be most appropriate to go there. We were there for 12 hours, seen for a total of maybe 20 minutes by the doctor, a nurse and a crisis worker. She has no mental health history and no history of drug use. Her symptoms were severe enough that even though her symptoms seemed to be psychological, I was also concerned maybe she had had a stroke, a brain injury, or some other medical problem. She was not examined for any biological causes. They discharged her and told her to go to see her psychiatrist the following day. I was fearful for her well being and safety, so I asked the nurse why she was being discharged, and if she was being discharged, what I could do to keep her safe. She was so volatile, that if I brought her home, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to her or what she might do. She told me that they were too busy, that she had a responsibility to the patient, not to support or educate me, and she was not a patient there anymore so we needed to leave. I said that I wasn’t comfortable leaving and she told me I could sit in the waiting room if I liked but that we had to go. Immediately after leaving, my fiance grabbed the keys from my hand, got in the car, and would’ve driven right into the hospital if I hadn’t stopped her. Her symptoms worsened dramatically over the next few hours, she became combative and self-injurious, so I drove her to another hospital, where they kept her for nearly 5 days because of the severity of her condition. She had to be sedated an restrained, she was often disoriented and confused and afraid. She was moved from room to room because they didn’t have a place for her, and essentially all they could do was sedate her and confine her to a bed in an attempt to stabilize her. I do feel like that hospital did the best they could, even though they were ill equipped to handle such a profoundly mentally ill patient. I’m not sure what can or should be done but for that initial hospital to claim it offers crisis services is wildly irresponsible if this is how they treat an incredibly vulnerable population. Thankfully I was there to support my fiancé through this and prevent any potential tragedy but someone else seeking help might not been so lucky. I am genuinely concerned about other people trying to receive care there and being dismissed, but I’m not sure what I can do, if anything.

Asked on March 25, 2019 under Malpractice Law, Pennsylvania


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Negligence on the part of the hospital is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable hospital would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).
Your fiance would not have a medical malpractice case against the first hospital because that would require an injury with documentation of medical treatment. The poor treatment did not cause an injury even though better medical treatment occurred at the second hospital.
You may want to write a letter of complaint to the state medical licensing board regarding the first hospital.

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