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Can you request voluntary discharge?

You can always ask for voluntary discharge, although if you are hospitalized for pathologies that affect public health, doctors can refuse to give it to you

If you are admitted, you believe that you are well and that you can continue the treatment without having to stay in the hospital, you can request voluntary discharge. You also have the right to withdraw from a previously arranged test or intervention and request discharge. In all these cases, your individual right to free choice prevails, so you can request your will to be discharged from Patient Care or the medical department, whether the doctor agrees or opposes this choice. However, as we also explain in this article, there are exceptional situations. Thus, if you are admitted for pathologies that affect public health, the doctors do not have to accept your will to receive medical discharge.

Is it legal to request voluntary discharge?

All patients can request voluntary discharge, as it is a right that affects their physical and moral integrity , “because they cannot impose medical care against their will,” says Ramón Prieto, secretary of the association El Defensor del Paciente.

In addition, by law, they have “free choice” (you can freely choose between various care alternatives), according to the lawyer Antonia Cortés. This is indicated in article 3 of Law 41/2002 on Patient Autonomy.

In this way:

  1. Medical care cannot be imposed on the patient against his will.
  2. You can refuse the proposed treatment.
  3. You must give consent prior to the performance of any medical tests and you may withdraw this consent.
  4. You can voluntarily decide to ask for hospital discharge.
  5. The 14 rights of the patient: discover what they are and how you can enforce them
  6. Patient admitted to voluntary discharge

Can I always ask for voluntary discharge?

Ask for it, yes. But they don’t always give it. And it is that there are some pathologies that fall “within the chapter of exceptions ”, says Cortés.

They are reflected in the aforementioned law, and are cases in which the doctor can refuse to give voluntary discharge; Specifically, it is possible when it comes to “pathologies or diseases that may affect public health” or if the patient is a minor. In this type of admission (for example, due to covid) “public health prevails, and the patient, therefore, would not be entitled to request discharge,” confirms Prieto.

If a patient admitted for this or similar reasons intended to leave, “the patient’s individual freedom and the safeguarding of public health would come into conflict” , details the lawyer, who confesses that “the second option would always be chosen”. If necessary, “it would even have to be communicated to the court, because a patient with these circumstances could not leave.”

How to request voluntary discharge

Voluntary discharge can be requested with the opinion in favor of the doctor, but it is also possible to do so even if the doctor disagrees:

With the favorable decision of the doctor

There are common situations, such as childbirth or intervention, in which the doctor gives his opinion in favor of the patient leaving the hospital, despite the fact that he has not yet proposed it.

However, even if the opinion is favorable, it is most likely that treatment will be recommended and guidelines for action will be given.

Against the doctor’s opinion

Sometimes the will of the patient does not coincide with the medical opinion. The physician may consider that he has not completed the treatment, that there may be a relapse due to leaving early, etc.

What are the consequences of requesting voluntary departure?

One of the main risks of requesting voluntary discharge is losing the possibility of a new discharge in the event of a relapse. What happens, then, if I request discharge and relapse?

Patients should be aware that, if they request voluntary discharge, ” they do so at their own risk,” says the lawyer.

If an injury is reproduced later or if there is a recurrence of a disease, ” the patient will be unprotected and may have problems, if he tries to claim a disability, among other things.” In other words, “he would be responsible for any aggravation that he might suffer” —clarifies Prieto— because the discharge has been granted at his request and under his responsibility.

In cases of voluntary discharge, despite leaving the hospital, the patient is recommended to follow “a series of guidelines to be able to recover or treat their illness in the best possible way.”


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