Why You Should Never Go to the Emergency Room Alone

A trip to the emergency room is rarely a fun experience. It can be traumatic in many instances. It is never a good idea to go to the emergency room alone when the emergency is life threatening or could escalate quickly. Medical professionals are usually very proficient in determining who should be informed of the emergency, but things can happen before a patient’s family can be notified and medical professionals are often dealing with unknown conditions.

Malpractice Can Occur Quickly 

Malpractice often occurs when a treatment professional is not aware of certain existing conditions. Conditions, such as, the patient taking prescription medications like Pradaxa, an anticoagulant that has no anecdote. Therefore, depending on the emergency, if the care needed is invasive then the patient could bleed out with no way of stopping it. The emergency room doctor may have no way of knowing this information and proceed in their efforts to save the patient’s life with no malicious intent to cause harm. Lack of malicious intent is not always acceptable in a malpractice claim, but can be a point of contention in defense when proving the difference between a “bad outcome” and “deviation”. An attorney at Bottar Leone, a medical malpractice lawyer in Syracuse NY, explains the difference as follows: “a health care provider must deviate from the standard of care. This means that the provider must fail to do what a reasonable doctor or nurse would have done under similar circumstances. In addition, that deviation must cause harm. A ‘bad outcome’ does not, in-and-of-itself, give rise to liability for professional negligence. Therefore, if the patient is incoherent and cannot provide answers to the standard questions normally asked before administering care then, designated individuals should be present. They should have up-to-date information about the patient’s medical history and a current list of prescription medications to assist with patient care decisions to help avoid malpractice.

Who Should Be Present 

The primary relative or individual’s spouse should be present at the emergency room because they are the most impacted individual. In traumatic situations, these individuals may need some additional support also, as decisions must be made quickly in many emergency room situations. Designating a conditional power of attorney to a trusted individual is a good idea in many cases. It is a good practice to establish this temporary power of attorney as a part of estate planning in case of emergency incapacity. In most states, this is automatically transferred to the spouse of any married patient, but can include children as well. It is important to note that a power of attorney is normally only appointed to an adult. The designation allows the appointed person to make decisions in the stead of the incapacitated party and ends when the patient becomes cognizant.

Alternate Attendants

If the primary emergency contact cannot be reached immediately, then the most trusted individual available should go to the emergency room also. They may be necessary for information and observance. Medications are regularly dispensed in the emergency room and information on allergies and medical conditions, such as diabetes or hemophilia, could be needed. It is very important for the actual decision makers to arrive as soon as possible, but a substitute is also very important until that time.

Draw Up a Living Will Beforehand

It is always a good practice to either file an active documented living will or explain your wishes to someone in the case of needed life support. Some religions actually prevent this treatment necessity, but the duty of the medical professional is to keep the patient alive. All other decisions are family decisions, or at least a duly-appointed representative. The medical facility will ask for a living will designation in emergency situations requiring life support. Normally, individuals do not have a living will in place when an emergency arises and instructions in care are sometimes necessary from a valid third-party representative. Temporary life support is used regularly in situations where the patient has a good prognosis for recovery. It is a very serious decision and is not always a permanent result of the emergency condition.

It is a fact of life that an emergency is exactly what it is called. It is an emergency, and optimum conditions rarely apply. A small amount of prevention can be worth a large amount of cure if the individual is prepared to expect the unexpected. Always communicate to the appropriate party what your wishes are in case of incapacity and include the desire of a representative or witness in case of a visit to the emergency room. Never go to the emergency room alone.

Kelly Dennie is a freelance writer with aging out-of-state in-laws, one of which suffered a stroke and was alone in the emergency room with no one to watch over his care. These symptoms could suggest a heart attack or stroke; yet, were overlooked and ignored by busy emergency room doctors deviating from normal practices creating grounds for malpractice.