Emergency Room Care – Abnormal Test

By Michael Zerres

Hospital Sends Police Officer to Patient’s Home After Abnormal Test

So, I was reading the decision of the Court in Gonzalez v. Agarwal (decided on 1-23-06 but just recently coming across my desk). Essentially, a woman had been complaining of headaches for over two years. Eventually, she ends up at the ER at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center because the pain had become so severe. A CT of the head was ordered and the patient was initially told that everything was normal. Well, turns out the CT was not normal. In fact, the test, unfortunately, revealed an inoperable brain stem tumor. So severe was this condition that the hospital sent a police officer to the woman’s house to have her immediately return to the hospital for treatment (which she did). But, what this case underscores is the obligation of a hospital to contact a patient after having an abnormal test performed in the ER. I doubt that it’s the standard of care to send a police officer in all situations, but at least at one NJ hospital, perhaps it is when the condition is potentially life-threatening.

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