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Family calls for stricter patient-discharge regulations at hospitals after man’s death

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- A family is calling for stricter patient-discharge regulations at area hospitals.

Their son, who they say has a history of mental illness, signed himself out of St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood and was wandering the streets when he was hit and killed by a car on Sunday night.

The family said they are heartbroken. They say their son should not have been able to sign a release form and leave the hospital without their knowledge.

But patients do have the right leave against medical advice.

“He said I’m with the coroner’s office, and I just lost it. Because I couldn’t believe it. Then they told me he was in a hit-and-run and they left him in the road. It’s just horrifying,” Patricia D'Amico said.

D'Amico is trying to process the death of her son, Kevin. She said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illness. She was his full-time caregiver.

“He was just an amazing and funny guy. So many people loved him,” D’Amico said.

On Saturday night, Kevin had a seizure and was admitted to St. Anthony Hospital. But the next day, he signed himself out and left. His mother was in disbelief.

“I go, what do you mean he’s not here? They said well, he got up and walked out. How could he have done this? When I was there he couldn’t feed himself,” D'Amico said.

A few hours later, Kevin was walking near South Wadsworth Boulevard and West Florida Avenue when police say he was hit by multiple cars and died at the scene.

“He was not in his right mind,” D’Amico said.

“There’s no way he was capable of making a rational decision at all to walk out of that hospital,” said Kevin’s sister, Stephanie McCarthy.

Because of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws, the hospital could not talk about this specific case.

According to the hospital's Patient Bill of Rights, if a physician deems a patient of “sound mind” then that person can choose to refuse medical care and leave.

“That doctor knew him for 4 seconds,” D’Amico said.

“Even if he read Kevin’s medical history he would know,” McCarthy said.

St. Anthony Hospital released a statement.

“At Centura Health – St. Anthony Hospital, we believe that patients are in control of their health and their decisions about their health. We established a Patient Bill of Rights and Responsibilities derived from both Federal and State regulations which supports patients participating in all areas of their care plan, treatment, care decisions, and discharge. Unless the patient is determined to not have the capacity to think, reason, and understand for oneself, each patient is supported in these Rights and Responsibilities, including their decision to discontinue care. When a patient refuses any drug, test, procedure, or treatment, protocols are followed including informing a patient of the medical consequences of such a decision as well as getting signatures on required forms such as a Patient Leaving Against Medical Advise (AMA), where they accept the consequences of their decision.”

While nothing will bring Kevin back, ultimately D'Amico and McCarthy believe they should have been notified about the discharge and want to see tighter regulations at hospitals so this doesn’t happen to another family.

“They might be an adult, but they’re not capable of taking care of themselves," McCarthy said. "We’re the caregivers. We have to be involved in these conversations."

Anyone who saw the crash is asked to call police at 303-987-7111.

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