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More Patients Leaving Hospitals Against Medical Advice

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An increasing number of patients are leaving U.S. hospitals against the advice of medical staff, according to a federal government report released Wednesday.

Between 1997 and 2007, the number of such cases increased by about 39 percent, from 264,000 to 368,000, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

An analysis of cases in which patients left the hospital against medical advice in 2007 found that:

- The top five reasons patients were in hospital were: chest pain with no determined cause (25,600); alcohol-related disorders (25,300); substance-related disorders (21,000); depression or other mood disorders (13,900); and diabetes with complications (12,500).

- Medicaid and Medicare patients each accounted for about 27 percent of cases, uninsured patients accounted for 22 percent, and 19 percent of cases involved patients with private insurance.

- Men were about 1.5 times more likely than women to leave the hospital against medical advice.

- Patients in the Northeast had the highest rate of leaving hospitals against medical advice -- 2 per 1,000 population vs. a nationwide average of 1 per 1,000 population.

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