Can You Sue a Medical Provider for Denied Medical Treatment?

The specific answer will depend on the facts of your case. Federal law requires Medicare-approved hospitals to provide emergency medical treatment to anyone who needs it, even if they don’t have health insurance and can’t pay. But note that private doctors can dismiss you as a patient at any time, for just about any reason (other than discrimination), with no fear of facing a lawsuit.

The Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

EMTALA was signed into law in 1986. The statute requires private hospitals with dedicated emergency departments to treat the following people regardless of their ability to pay:

  • women in active labor, and
  • people with emergency medical conditions.

Under EMTALA, the patient can’t be released or transferred to another hospital until their condition has been stabilized. Once stabilized, the hospital can legally release the patient or refuse further care, so long as the refusal is not discriminatory. But if the hospital originally refused medical care, then you could file a suit against the medical provider.

Please note that EMTALA doesn’t cover every type of medical facility.  In particular, it doesn’t apply to:

  • private doctor’s offices, 
  • stand-alone medical labs, and
  • specialty hospitals that don’t have emergency rooms.

Note, too, that even despite EMTALA, there are times when a patient may be rightfully denied emergency medical care. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • The patient exhibits “drug seeking behavior,”
  • The patient is deluded, believing they are seriously ill when there is no real illness, and
  • The patient displays destructive or dangerous behavior while waiting to be seen.

The Case of Private Doctors

A private doctor is not subject to the provisions of EMTALA. Private doctors therefore can dismiss you as a patient at any time, for just about any reason other than discrimination, without fear of liability.

Common reasons why a private doctor may refuse treatment include:

  • The doctor’s practice is not accepting new patients,
  • The doctor doesn’t have a working relationship with your health insurance company,
  • The doctor chooses not to treat patients with the illness or injury you suffer from,
  • You can’t pay for the costs of treatment, and
  • You or your spouse are a medical malpractice attorney.

Further, your doctor can refuse to continue treating you because:

  • You haven’t paid your bill,
  • The doctor has stopped doing business with your health insurance provider,
  • You continue to exhibit drug-seeking behavior,
  • You are a disruptive patient, and
  • The doctor learns you or your spouse is a medical malpractice attorney.

But note that if your health would suffer if you were not treated, the doctor must continue to treat you until you’ve had time to find a new provider.

If your doctor refuses to continue to provide treatment, and as a direct result your condition worsens, you may have the basis of a medical malpractice claim.

Contact Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC

Please know that our firm is here to help if you were denied medical treatment. Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC provides free consultations to all our potential clients. The attorneys at our law firm also have over 120 years of combined experience representing injured parties in medical malpractice cases. They never back down to insurers and fight for their clients’ interests every step of the way. Do yourself a favor and contact them now for the quality legal representation you deserve.

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