Harry v. Marchant, 291 F.3d 767, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 9222 (11th Cir. 2002)
The patient was brought to the ER by fire and rescue with an initial diagnosis of “pneumonia rule out sepsis.” The evaluating physician suggested admitting the patient to the ICU, but this request was refused, with instructions to perform further testing. The treating physician informed the supervising physician that the testing required could not be performed due to a lack of indicative symptoms, but authorization was still denied. The patient’s PCP was then contacted, who arrived and examined the patient, who was then, after five hours, admitted to the ICU.
The plaintiff alleged that the hospital violated EMTALA by failing to stabilize the patient and failing to admit her to inpatient service. The court analyzed the relevant statutory language and legislative history, and found that the stabilization provisions were only intended to apply to transfers and to prevent “patient dumping,” not to supplant malpractice law. The court concluded that “[t]heer is no duty under EMTALA to provide stabilization treatment to a patient with an emergency medical condition who is not transferred” (it is worth noting that the definition of the term “transfer” in EMTALA includes “discharge,” 42 U.S.C. 1395dd(e)(4).)
Notes: This case was subject to a rehearing en banc, where the full court reversed its prior ruling that reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss the failure to stabilize claim. An important case standing for the proposition that if no “transfer” or “discharge” occurs, there can be no violation under EMTALA. Again, the common theme amongst many of the decisions on this statute is that Congress clearly did not intend to enact a federal malpractice statute.