When Patients Leave ‘Against Medical Advice’
A.M.A. is a term we use in the hospital when patients wish to leave before the doctor who is treating them considers them ready for discharge. Any patient who understands the risks and benefits of forgoing medical care can leave A.M.A. at any time. Nevertheless, health professionals often stigmatize such patients, labeling them as “noncompliant,” “ungrateful” or “unwilling to accept appropriate medical care.”

As I walked into my patient’s room, she lay in bed, tearful. She was only in her 50s but looked much older, her walker propped at the side of her bed. Her heart valves were not functioning properly, causing her to be short of breath and her legs to swell. She said immediately, “I’m sorry, doctor. I just need to go home.”...

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