Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some free legal advice for the hospital epidemiologist

As I was scanning my email today, a link in Medscape caught my eye: Can hospitals force patients to remain in isolation? Short answer, according to the healthcare attorney interviewed, is no. Keeping a patient in contact precautions against their will constitutes false imprisonment. Wow! If word of this leaked to patients with MDROs, this could be the end of isolation as we know it.

Graphic:  Next Thing


  1. I think contact precautions should be strictly applied for short period of time, during this time patients should be educated how not to be germ transmittor. once this happened patient could be allowed to move around undersupervision.

  2. Since I have never had a disease that would require lockdown isolation my first thought is "Good.". But with a child with a chronic illness for who if she did get sick with TB or other disease that might require isolation, it could be incredibly life threatening..I start to think maybe Drs. and hospitals should have the legal right to forcefully isolate patients.

    Some laws should be created to protect the "whole' vs the "individual".. after all we have seatbelts,helmets,insurance,TSA.. all to protect the masses. Forced isolation for certain contagious diseases would reduce costs, and protect lives.. Yet, I cannot help but remember that before the 70's the Medical world had the power to commit people to asylums,institutes etc- we had to take that power away because the power was abused.

  3. Interesting discussion....
    I tend to agree with readers for really bad infections. Given up to 1/3 of hospital patients in some units are on Contact Precautions, it is harder to argue the rarity or seriousness of breaking precautions. Guess the same would apply to healthcare workers not adhering to precautions as well.

    I think there is recent history of forcible isolation. Everyones favorite playboy law student traveler to Italy while infected with xdr TB patient was held under quarantine law, I believe. (even though isolated, not quarantined)

  4. Because tuberculosis has much greater public health implications than multidrug resistant organisms, states generally have laws that apply to isolation (even forced isolation via incarceration) of patient with active TB.

  5. The problem is not with tuberculosis or other air born transmitted diseases, those are not common and forced isolation is in place.
    but patients who require contact precautions like patients colonized with MDRO for how long should be isolated. based on available guidelines: indifinitly