HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The anti-EMTALA

You have to love a federal appeals court decision that starts off with:  "When holding a hammer, every problem can seem a nail."  It signals to the appellant's attorney that "there is no need to waste any more billable time reading the rest of the opinion, loser."   This is what the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently told an emergency room doctor who claimed his termination from his employment with a Colorado hospital violated EMTALA's whistleblower provisions.  Dr. Genova claimed that he was terminated because he complained about overcrowding in the emergency room, and that this was a violation of EMTALA's whistleblower provisions.  The good doctor complained about "patient hoarding" by the hospital in the emergency room, when patients could have been timely served elsewhere.  The problem with this theory is that EMTALA is designed to prevent hospitals from dumping undesireable patients out of their emergency rooms, not to discourage hospitals from treating too many patients in the emergency room.  Thus, Dr. Genova's lawsuit is really based on some anti-EMTALA law that does not exist, at least not at the federal level.  There is also an interesting discussion of the medical staff bylaws that governed Dr. Genova's termination, and the lack of support for a public policy argument.  The opinion is well-worth reviewing for those who are teaching health care law. [VJW]

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