Detroit medical malpractice attorney Scott Weidenfeller discusses “medical kidnapping”& Michigan’s Patient Bill of Rights
Last year, an 18 year old who had been making her own medical decisions while a patient at the Mayo Clinic, was refused transfer to another hospital. Since the hospital would not let her leave, the high school senior – Alyssa Gilderhus – hatched a plan with her family to escape. The escape from Mayo Clinic was videotaped by Alyssa’s sister. During the escape, as Alyssa was starting to get into her parents’ car, staff members tried to grab Alyssa to prevent her from leaving. The family finally made it to a hospital in a different state. At this hospital, the physicians determined that Alyssa was capable of making her own decisions. (One of the reasons the staff at Mayo Clinic wouldn’t transfer her was because they said she wasn’t capable of making her own medical decisions and that she needed in-patient care). In addition, the physicians who examined Alyssa determined that she did not need in-patient care and could go home with instructions for her care.
Alyssa had been admitted to Mayo Clinic after she was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain aneurysm on Christmas day, 2016. Alyssa had multiple neurosurgical procedures and she was grateful for the care she received while in the neurosurgical unit. Her neurosurgeons said she had superseded their expectations and that surviving had been a miracle. Alyssa was transferred to Mayo Clinic’s rehabilitation unit and that is where her troubles began. Alyssa had the wrong size breathing tube and the staff delayed changing it to the correct size. Then the rehab staff failed to diagnose an infection in Alyssa. The family wrote many questions for the rehab physician and staff to answer on a large white board, but the questions were not answered. The family felt that the staff was not giving Alyssa proper care, that they were not answering questions, and that they were rude and dismissive.
When Alyssa and her family asked for Alyssa to be transferred to a different hospital, the staff – including the attending rehab physician in charge of Alyssa’s care – refused transfer, stating that Alyssa was not capable of making her own medical decisions. This was odd for the staff to state, since Alyssa had been making her own medical decisions since arriving to the Mayo Clinic. She was the one who signed her consent forms. Mayo Clinic officials had asked the county for help in obtaining guardianship of Alyssa, but had not initially informed Alyssa and her family they were taking these steps. Prior to Alyssa’s request to be transferred, Alyssa’s mother had been told she couldn’t participate in Alyssa’s care. The family felt that the staff did this because Alyssa’s mother had been a very strong advocate for Alyssa and had gotten upset with the attending physician and staff when she felt that they were providing negligent care and not answering Alyssa and her family’s questions.
When Alyssa finally escaped from Mayo Clinic and was evaluated by another medical team who had different opinions than the Mayo Clinic staff, the police decided that it was not appropriate for them to be involved. CNN reporters spoke with a medical ethicist who stated that adult patients are allowed to leave a hospital against medical advice. Furthermore, the ethicist stated that Mayo Clinic “can’t eat their cake and have it too.” As the police had determined, the ethicist stated that it didn’t make sense that Alyssa had been making her own medical decisions – the Mayo Clinic Staff had allowed her to make her own decisions – but then in Alyssa’s discharge summary, the attending physician stated that Alyssa was not capable of making her own medical decisions.
MICHIGAN’S PATIENT BILL OF RIGHTS
Michigan has a Patient Bill of Rights which provides a list of guarantees for all people receiving medical care. The Bill provides that a patient has the right to refuse treatment and be informed of the consequences of that refusal. Patients have the right to receive all information necessary to be informed, and they have the right to consent to or deny a proposed treatment or procedure. Informed consent includes a description of the significant medical risks involved, alternatives, and costs.
The phrase “against medical advice (AMA),” is used when a patient wants to be discharged from a hospital or other healthcare facility and the physician is opposed to the discharge. In these cases, patients will be told that the discharge is against the physician’s medical advice. Most of the time, patients are not prevented from leaving the hospital/facility, but they will usually be asked to sign a statement that indicates that they have been informed that they are leaving AMA. Patients do not have to sign the statement; however, staff sometimes put pressure on patients to sign these documents nonetheless. The reason healthcare providers want patients to sign the statements is to limit their exposure to liability in the event that the patient becomes injured after leaving the hospital/facility AMA.
If you or a family member is attempting to be discharged from a hospital/healthcare facility and your healthcare providers tell you that the discharge would be AMA, or if attempts are made to delay you or your family member’s discharge, the Michigan Patient Bill of Rights provides protection. Each patient must be afforded the opportunity to discharge herself from a hospital or other healthcare facility.
THE DETROIT MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYERS AT GREWAL LAW / CHURCH WYBLE P.C. ARE HERE TO HELP
If you believe you were a victim of medical negligence, please contact our team of experienced Detroit medical malpractice attorneys. The Michigan medical malpractice team at Grewal Law / Church Wyble P.C. is comprised of attorneys and healthcare professionals, including an on-site physician, registered nurse, pharmacist, paramedic, and respiratory therapist. Our attorneys are licensed in Michigan and Florida, and we help victims of medical malpractice and birth trauma throughout Michigan and Florida.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury that you believe was the result of medical negligence, please contact our team. Our Michigan and Florida medical malpractice attorneys and medical team are available to speak with you 24/7.
A Michigan native who graduated from both Michigan State University and Cooley Law School, Mr. Weidenfeller has limited his practice of law to representing individuals who have been permanently injured and families who have lost a loved one as the result of medical errors for more than 20 years. In that time, he has been featured on the cover of Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly and has spoken to many and varied professional groups about trial practice and effective communication.