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.

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