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Patient Conditions As Defined By American Hospital Association

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - After the horrific crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan, the media reported that he had a broken nose, femur, and ribs and was in critical condition. While there's no doubt that his injuries, both physical and emotional, were horrific, many were surprised that broken bones counted as "critical" leaving many to wonder what the definition of critical condition is.

Here's where the lawyers come in. HIPAA, the law governing patient privacy, says that hospitals are only allowed to disclose relatively cryptic terms about a person's conditions to the media; beyond that, written authorization by the patient is required. The conditions are defined by the American Hospital Association and, while hospitals don't have to use these definitions, most do.

When a patient is in...Good condition, his vital signs are stable and normal and he's conscious and comfortable. Fair is a favorable prognosis. He's conscious but may be uncomfortable. Serious means acutely ill with questionable prognosis but there is a chance for improved prognosis. And, Critical implies a questionable prognosis. Vital signs are unstable and abnormal and major complications are involved.

And so doctors, lawyers, and the world watch and pray for a speedy and complete return to health.

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