CA law would ban patient dumping

State and local officials in California plan to announce today the filing of a bill which would make it a crime to dump patients on the street. The bill comes in the wake of a large scale investigation of patient dumping by the region's hospitals, targeting at 55 cases of sick homeless patients who were allegedly left on the street on Los Angeles' skid row.

To date, authorities have had a hard time building cases against the hospitals targeted, given that there's no California law on the books which specifically prohibits dumping a homeless person on the curb. If the new bill passes, however, it would become a misdemeanor for a hospital to transport patients anywhere other than their home without their informed consent. Individuals who broke the law could face a $1,000 fine and two years in jail; facilities could see penalties of up to $10,000.

If the bill doesn't have legs, though, it's not clear whether city and state officials will be able to proceed with their legal actions against suspect hospitals. City attorneys have filed charges of false imprisonment against a Kaiser Permanente hospital for dumping one homeless woman on skid row in 2005. In turn, the Los Angeles Police Department is announcing that it will arrest anyone who engages in such patient dumping on false imprisonment charges. However, legal experts say the charges may not stick in either case.

To earn more about the legislation:
- read this Los Angeles Times article