Despite public outrage over the dumping of homeless patients on Los Angeles’ skid row, it’s debatable whether criminalizing the practice would solve the problem, says the Los Angeles Times. As the number of suspected dumping cases reached 55 last week, a state senator urged making it a misdemeanor for hospitals to transport patients and leave them on the streets against their will. Some legal experts question whether the law could be effective without a parallel effort to provide more shelter and services for chronically ill homeless patients who are well enough to leave the hospital but have no place for continuing medical services.
There are only about 40 “recuperative beds” available in L.A. for homeless people who need medical attention after being discharged from hospitals. Said Russ Korobkin, a University of California at Los Angeles law professor: “Requiring hospitals to be responsible for the patients and not leave them in the gutter is a first step. But you’ve got to have a second step of providing some government-funded beds for recovery.” Otherwise, the law creates an “unfunded mandate” – which could be challenged in court – that hospitals must not only treat the sick but also find housing for them upon their release. University of Southern California law Prof. Alex Capron said the proposed legislation could leave a hospital on the hook for services that go well beyond how it provides treatment for homeless people.