Admitted And Then Committed: A Hospital Horror Story

by AnnMarie McIlwain*

What would you do if a hospital was holding you against your will? Ordinarily I would say this is a rare situation, but in one week, two new clients hired my firm to help “spring them” from the hospital. This blog focuses on the case that occurred at a hospital located near our offices. As it turned out, being physically close proved to be a big advantage in our success in resolving the situation quickly.

As background, the client was admitted to a local hospital for a routine kidney stone removal surgery following a failed surgery of the same kind two weeks earlier. My client was informed in recovery that he experienced a heart attack during the second surgery and needed immediate cardiac testing with the possibility of corrective surgery. As this was the second surgery at the same hospital in which he experienced complications during the surgery, he lost faith in the hospital. After explaining that he preferred to be discharged so that he could pursue a second opinion, the hospital assessed that he was mentally unfit, placed an aide in his room 24 hours a day and held him involuntarily. This situation continued for several days until my client’s brother contacted my firm and asked for our help.

After listening to my client’s story and organizing the facts, I determined that the plan of action was to arrange a meeting with his case worker in his hospital room. Knowing the hospital would likely be defensive in my presence, when the case worker arrived for our meeting I asked her to explain the situation as she understood it. With my client’s permission, I next pointed out that my client had no medical history of mental illness and that it was his right to make his own medical choices even if they could be judged medically unwise by the medical staff and, taken together, there was insufficient reason to keep my client in the hospital against his will. Moreover, my client was experiencing out-of-pocket expenses related to the hospital’s decision, further compounding the issue. Lastly, I delineated the events as my client experienced them and indirectly communicated that there appeared to be a conflict of interest on the part of the hospital.

In less than 24 hours of being hired, my client was home where he belonged. Since then we helped him meet with a top cardiologist for further evaluation. Hospitals are meant to be part of the solution, not prisons. If they start to feel that way, maybe it is time for an advocate to help you.

~ April 21, 2016

*AnnMarie McIlwain is CEO of Patient Advocators, a team of compassionate advocates helping people across the U.S. with their medical care and insurance.

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