Volume 23, Number 4, Winter 2012
Complex Discharges and Undocumented Patients: Growing Ethical Concerns
Kayhan Parsi and Nina Hossa
The Journal of Clinical Ethics 23, no. 4 (Winter 2012): 299-307.
A growing number of discharges at acute-care hospitals involve patients who are undocumented and lack legal status. Because such patients are ineligible for public assistance, long-term care facilities will routinely deny them admission. These discharges become complex discharges because of such financial barriers. If local family support is unavailable, discharging such patients to a safe and suitable location becomes increasingly difficult. These complex discharges implicate a number of ethical principles. We describe such complex discharge cases, apply various ethical frameworks, and call for potential policy solutions to address this growing ethical concern.