Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (4)15 Dec 96  (Editor's note 6/2/06 - HCFA issued regulations adopting the ruling in this case - the case itself is now obsolete.)

   Quick Summary:If a patient is admitted from the emergency room for acute inpatient care, and a no-code order is appropriately entered in the chart, and some days later the patient is allowed to expire rather than an attempt being made to resuscitate the patient, there is no violation of the EMTALA’s requirement for stabilizing medical care.  UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS, FOURTH CIRCUIT (VIRGINIA), 1996.


   Once it has been determined that an emergency-room patient is to be admitted to the hospital for acute care, and the patient is admitted, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) no longer applies, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Virginia) has recently ruled.

   The basic purpose behind the Federal EMTALA, according to the court, is to prevent "patient dumping" by hospital emergency departments where state laws may not afford an absolute requirement that hospital emergency departments conduct appropriate screening examinations and render necessary stabilizing treatment. Getting patients into the system who might otherwise go untreated is the sole purpose behind this law.

   If a patient is screened and offered appropriate medical care, the EMTALA is no basis for a lawsuit, according to the court. Bryan vs. Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 95 F. 3d 349 (4th Cir., 1996).