The house fire death of a patient who had been discharged from a hospital the previous night was the subject of a Maine medical malpractice lawsuit recently before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. There was no question the man’s death did not occur while he was on hospital property or under care of medical staffers. The issue was whether the hospital and other defendants were negligent in discharging the patient, whom plaintiffs asserted lacked the capacity to offer informed consent to that discharge.
In Oliver v. Eastern Maine Medical Center, the state high court affirmed the conclusion of the Superior Court, which found the hospital was not negligent in the discharge, despite the fact it was contrary to instructions given by patient’s children as his court-appointed guardians. The question became whether the patient was mentally fit to authorize his own discharge from the hospital.