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Understanding Patient Abandonment

Understanding Patient Abandonment

Few people have heard of patient abandonment unless it has happened to them. Patient abandonment is just one form of medical malpractice, and it occurs when a medical professional terminates a relationship with their patient with no reasonable notice or excuse. The patient does not have the opportunity to find another provider in an adequate amount of time.


Whether or not patient abandonment has occurred follows a very strict set of rules. Liability can vary from state to state, but there are common elements:

  • There is an established doctor-patient relationship.
  • The patient is still in need of medical attention.
  • The patient did not have the time or resources to find a suitable replacement.
  • The patient suffered injury as a result of the abandonment.

When It Is Abandonment

A doctor has every right to terminate a relationship with a patient provided there is a reasonable excuse and the relationship is terminated with a reasonable amount of notice.

Abandonment can occur in a number of ways. These include:

  • Refusal to see a patient who is unable to pay their bill.
  • Not following up with a patient who has missed a critical appointment.
  • Staff fails to contact the patient with an urgent message or question from the doctor.
  • Staff schedules an appointment too far in the future, causing the patient’s condition to worsen.

It is not considered abandonment when there are ethical or legal reasons for the doctor to terminate the relationship. A doctor may also refuse to see a patient who regularly cancels or misses appointments. A patient who refuses to comply with a doctor’s instructions or recommendations, and a patient who is inappropriate during an appointment may have their doctor-patient relationship terminated without recourse.

When a patient is abandoned by their doctor, they may suffer serious harm. Conditions may worsen, chronic conditions may not be controlled, and injuries may not heal. Patient abandonment is considered to be a serious breach of ethics in the medical field.

Patient abandonment is a form of medical malpractice that victims may seek compensation for. If you believe that you have been abandoned by a doctor in Charleston, call our team of medical malpractice attorneys today. We will review the details of your case and advise you of your options. Call for more information or browse our website to find the answers to questions you have about our firm or the types of cases we handle.

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