EMTALA and Mental Health0

Federal law defines an “emergency medical condition” as “a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in . . . placing the health of the individual . . . in serious jeopardy.”  42 U.S.C. Section 1395dd(e)(1)(A)(i).
Passed in 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is a United States Act of Congress that requires every hospital to treat any patient with an emergency condition in such a way that, upon the patient’s release, no further deterioration of the condition is likely.  No hospital may release a patient with an emergency medical condition without first determining that the patient has actually been stabilized, even if the hospital properly admitted the patient.
  • When a patient presents at a hospital with a severe mental disability, does this trigger the requirements under EMTALA?
  • When does a mental health emergency qualify as an “emergency medical condition” under EMTALA?
In the case of Moses v. Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Inc., 561 F.3d 573 (6th Cir. 2009), the estate’s representative brought a lawsuit against the medical center, alleging defendants violated EMTALA by releasing deceased’s husband from the hospital just 10 days before he murdered her.  The Court of Appeal held that Estate had the right to bring this claim.  On June 28, 2010, the United States Supreme Court denied the health center’s writ of certiorari, sending this issue back to the district court for further determination.

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