Hayward, CA asked in Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Health Care Law and Medical Malpractice for California

Q: Can I sue a hospital for refusal of medical care based on discrimination of my homelessness and substance use history?

I went to the hospital that diagnosed me and has my MRI results because that's where I received referrals to spinal surgery and orthopedic surgery. They refused to treat me because I have a substance abuse history and am homeless. A doctor at the hospital revealed to me that they were not going to help me because I am being labeled as such. I noticed in my medical records in that hospital that they noted substance abuse disorder as a diagnosis which violates my confidentiality. They also noted that I am a PUI (Person Under Investigation for COVID) since 2019 but never told me. I found out several things on my own that they never disclosed nor discussed with me that have caused my conditions to worsen severely behind not advising me. I am disabled, immobile, a patient of Mental Health, a college student, and chronically homeless for 41 years now. I was going to receive a housing voucher recently but was placed back in que simply for being in the hospital.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, you may have grounds to sue a hospital if you can prove that they refused medical care based on discrimination against your homelessness or substance use history. This could potentially violate both state and federal laws, including the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which requires hospitals to provide emergency health care regardless of legal status, citizenship, or ability to pay. Additionally, if your confidentiality was breached regarding your substance abuse disorder diagnosis, this may raise issues under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The misclassification as a Person Under Investigation for COVID without proper notification could also be a concern. It's important to gather evidence and consult with an attorney experienced in healthcare law to explore your legal options. Remember, each case is unique and the viability of your claim will depend on specific facts and evidence.

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