Every year, Americans make approximately 130 million visits to the emergency room. Private hospitals with Medicare approval are required by law to provide emergency care to patients who need care. A patient’s insurance status or ability to pay does not matter in most cases. If you have been denied treatment at a hospital and you have suffered medical problems because of the denial, you may have a right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits can recover compensation for all of the financial and emotional losses they have suffered due to the hospital’s refusal to provide them with medical treatment.
When Can a Hospital Refuse to Treat a Patient?
The majority of hospitals with emergency rooms must provide emergency medical treatment to anyone who needs it. Whether or not the patient can pay for the treatment does not matter. Hospitals must provide care. In the past, private hospitals could deny providing patients with care. Private emergency rooms frequently refuse to treat patients who did not have enough money to pay for the treatment. Hospitals would transfer patients who can pay to public hospitals in a process called dumping. Sadly, many patients died or suffered serious consequences because they did not receive treatment in time.
In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Under this law, private hospitals that receive any public funding through Medicare must provide emergency treatment to patients in need, regardless of whether the patient can pay for the treatment. As a result, hospitals are now prohibited from releasing patients to another hospital, refusing to treat them because they cannot pay. They must treat the patient until the patient is stable. Not all medical facilities are subject to EMTALA. For example, the following types of medical facilities may not be required to accept all patients for emergency treatment:
- Private doctor’s offices
- Hospitals without emergency departments
- Medical laboratories that are not required to provide emergency care
- Hospitals that do not accept federal funding
However, recent court rulings have stated that EMTALA applies to hospital-affiliated urgent care clinics. Hospitals can also refuse to treat patients with emergency medical care when:
- The patient appears to be seeking treatment primarily to obtain illicit drugs
- Patients have delusions of suffering from an illness but are not ill
- Patients behave dangerously or destructively while awaiting medical treatment
Under EMTALA, an Emergency medical condition is defined as a condition with a sudden onset and symptoms, such as intense pain, substance abuse with straw, psychiatric disruption, women in active labor, and any other symptoms that could lead to:
- A severe impairment of bodily function
- A serious dysfunction of a body part or bodily function
- Jeopardy and patience health
- Jeopardizing an unborn child’s health
Can a Private Doctor Refuse to Treat a Patient
The EMTALA does not apply to private doctors. Private doctors have a right to refuse patient care for nearly any reason, including the patient’s inability to pay. However, private doctors are prohibited from refusing patience if their decision is based on unlawful discrimination based on age, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, or religion. Private doctors can refuse to provide treatment to new patients in the following scenarios:
- The doctor’s office is not accepting new patients
- The doctor’s office does not take your health insurance
- The patient can I pay for the cost of treatment he or she needs
- The doctor decided not to treat patients with your specific injury or illness
- You or your spouse practice as a medical malpractice attorney
- You have not paid for medical treatment you received from them in the past
- The doctor’s office decided to stop accepting your health insurance
- You have exhibited repeated or persistent drug-seeking behavior
- You have been destructive or disruptive as a patient
- The doctor chooses not to provide medical care due to religious or conscientious beliefs
Schedule a Complimentary Consultation With an Alabama Attorney
Has a hospital emergency room refused to treat you? Did you suffer additional medical complications because of their refusal to treat you? If so, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. At Heninger Garrison Davis, Our Alabama medical malpractice attorneys have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for clients just like you. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about whether you may have a right to compensation after being denied treatment.