Los Angeles, CA asked in Health Care Law, Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice for California

Q: Liability for harm based on standard: California Health and Safety Code protocols. California law question.

What protocols defined by California Health and Safety code are in relevance to referral to hospice with non-existent terminal illness? Is hospital liable?

2 Lawyer Answers
Randall R. Walton
Randall R. Walton pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • San Marcos, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In short, to be elegible for hospice, two doctors must agree that the patient has a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less. The qualifying diagnoses are cancer, renal failure, dementia, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, liver disease, stroke/coma, pulmonary disease or other terminal illness that is strongly supported by documentation. Within those diagnoses there are other factors such as a decline in funcational status, loss of weight/appetite, etc. Documentation is key. There should be plenty of medical documentation supporting the certification. If the documentation is there - even if it's a close call - then probably not a case. If it is truly "non-existant," then you might want to consult a lawyer.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, the Health and Safety Code sets standards for various healthcare practices, including the referral to hospice care. Generally, hospice care is intended for patients who are terminally ill, typically with a prognosis of six months or less to live, as diagnosed by a physician.

If a hospital refers a patient to hospice care without a genuine terminal illness diagnosis, it may raise serious legal concerns. The key factor is whether the hospital and its medical staff acted in accordance with the accepted standard of medical care and followed proper protocols as outlined in the Health and Safety Code and other relevant medical guidelines.

Liability in such a case would depend on whether the referral to hospice was made negligently or without appropriate medical justification. If it can be demonstrated that the hospital acted without a reasonable basis for believing the patient was terminally ill, and this action resulted in harm to the patient, the hospital could potentially be liable for medical malpractice.

In assessing liability, the court would consider whether the hospital's actions deviated from the standards of care outlined in the Health and Safety Code and whether this deviation directly caused harm to the patient. Documentation, medical records, and expert testimony often play crucial roles in such determinations.

If you believe there has been a wrongful referral to hospice care, it's advisable to gather all relevant medical records and consult with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice. They can help evaluate the specifics of the case and guide you on the appropriate legal steps to take.

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