ICBioethics Blog 

When Hospitals Overstep their Authority

Written by: Dr. Kathy Gennuso

There seems to be a story each week about a hospital abusing its responsibilities or overstepping authority at the expense of the patient. Just recently a story appeared about a patient at a local hospital: a first-time mother, whose urine was tested at delivery for drugs, a test that was neither routine nor required. Even if the test was an organizational policy, the patient should have been clearly informed through the informed consent procedure. The test returned a false positive for opiates that she believed stemmed from eating poppy seed bread. The baby tested negative for any opiates. Yet according to the Post-Gazette, this particular new mother was left with a “highly intrusive” Children, Youth and Families investigation, including home visit and additional testing, a process that went on for over seven weeks. Although no charges were filed, the mother was informed the agency would keep the file and it could be used against her in the future!

Not surprising, the mother, most upset by the way the hospital handled the situation, has now filed a lawsuit. Obviously, this situation could have been handled with much more consideration and professionalism, to say the least.

Even though the law states that patients must be fully informed about their medical services, as well as be full participants in decisions regarding treatment options, this particular example of medical decision making suggests that securing patient rights in the law has had limited empowerment for the patient.

Recognizing and respecting patients’ rights directly affects patients’ treatment and care . . . and impacts real lives.

Mitch GennusoComment