June 2004, Volume 34 Number 6 , p 24 - 24
© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Volume 34(6) June 2004 p 24 AWOL again [LEGAL QUESTIONS: PATIENT ELOPEMENT]
BROOKE, PENNY SIMPSON APRN, MS, JD
I work as a charge nurse at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. Yesterday, a long-term patient left on his own, went to a bar, started drinking, got into a fight, and sustained some scratches and bruises. Recognizing him from past visits, the bartender called the hospital and asked us to come get him. We sent someone over, and the patient came back without incident.
This man is mentally competent, so where does liability lie in this situation? Is the hospital at all responsible for his actions? Who'd be liable if he'd seriously injured someone or damaged property during his elopement? And if he hadn't returned willingly, would the VA be liable for battery if our staff member had used physical means to ...