Patient Abandonment?


Patient abandonment…

I just stumbled across this term yesterday, but never really knew that this was such a thing. It can even have legal consequences and malpractice lawsuits.

Like many others, I had a therapist and a psychiatrist who worked together to discuss what was best for my mental health treatment. My therapist, who is still currently employed where I attend my sessions, helps me with cognitive behavioral therapy; however, she is unable to prescribe psychiatric medications. My psychiatrist, on the other hand, has been the same for the past couple of years and I grew to really trust her with my medication guidance, which is difficult for me due to a past psychiatrist who was unnecessarily aggressive. Well, I found out yesterday when trying to make an appointment that my psychiatrist abruptly left.

How convenient…


Another psychiatrist was not recommended for me, nor was I notified that my psychiatrist left the company. Instead, I had a confused employee on the phone apologizing to me. It wasn’t his fault! This poor guy is just employed at the call center to make appointments and send messages to doctors. He told me that I will receive a call back later in the day to schedule an appointment with a new psychiatrist.

Now, my anxiety has started to peak.

With a new psychiatrist comes a new approach to treatment with different opinions on which medications that I should be on. This is terrifying! I have been through too many medication withdrawals, even when I am slowly lowering my doses to eventually cease taking the medication.

I am not good with change, especially when it comes to my mental health. I feel abandoned, like a forgotten patient file in the back of the old file cabinet.

I guess I should feel fortunate that this is the first psychiatrist change in over 4 years. Other patients unfortunately have changes throughout one year. I can’t imagine the feeling of instability that it would create!

Patient abandonment laws are different in every state.

California law mandates that you must be able to show your doctor breached the standard of care (that is, was negligent or committed malpractice) in a very specific way.

California requires only two elements of proof, while other states can require as many as five elements of proof.

  1. A plaintiff must be able to establish, first, that the doctor did indeed terminate the relationship.
  2. The patient must be able to show the doctor, when terminating the relationship, did not give them any notice or alternative recommendations. It is a doctor’s duty to provide competent medical care under the law, and if they cease to do so without providing other alternatives to the patient, they have breached that duty.

Now, I am not, in any way, stating that I will pursue a lawsuit. However, a simple notice or doctor recommendation would have sufficed since I relied on my psychiatrist for everything pertaining to my medications.

This is only a small bump in the road and I will overcome the anxiety. Who knows, maybe this is a blessing in disguise!



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