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The Discharge Process

Can I be kept in the hospital against my will? No. The hospital can be liable for "false imprisonment" if hospital officials attempt to prevent you from leaving. You should discuss your condition and reasons for wanting to leave with your physician before leaving.

Can my child or ward be kept in the hospital against my will? No. If you are the person legally responsible for a minor or ward, you can determine if you want the minor or ward discharged from the hospital. If your request to discharge poses a threat to the child's life, the hospital may seek a court order to continue treatment of the child.

Can the hospital require that my bill be paid or that arrangements for payment be made before I am discharged? No. If you physician says you are medically ready to leave, the hospital must discharge you. If you decide to leave without your physician's approval, the hospital still must let you go.

What can I do if I do not like the hospital? First discuss this with your physician; if you cannot obtain satisfaction, request that you be transferred to another hospital. You have the right to leave if you insist, but you should pay attention to your physician's advice about your health and safety. If no other hospital will take you, you can go to the county public hospital if there is one in your area.

What happens if I try to leave the hospital on my own? The hospital administrator and nurses will urge you to stay because they have a duty to attempt to make you follow medical advice. If you insist on leaving, they will usually ask you to sign an against-medical-advice (AMA) form.

What is an against-medical-advice form? This form states that you have left the hospital against the advice of your physician. It also states that you release the hospital and physicians from any liability for injuries caused by leaving the hospital.

Must I sign this form? No.

Should I sign this form? No. You should prepare a letter explaining why you are leaving the hospital. You should keep a copy of this letter, and you should give a copy to the hospital administrator.

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