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Nicoletti Walker Law Group Jan. 27, 2016

On December 21st, a woman in Florida who was hospitalized for experiencing breathing difficulties was forcibly taken by police from the hospital in handcuffs and soon after “mysteriously died,” supposedly due to a blood clot issue, while in police custody. However, the woman’s family is claiming that her death was wrongful and due to the negligence of the police and hospital staff.

There is now controversy not only regarding how the patient was treated as she was taken from the hospital, but also why she was removed from the hospital in the first place, as some at the hospital claim that she was trespassing, while others have pointed out that patients are never forcibly removed unless they are a threat to others’ safety.

The patient was, at one point, thought to be stable by hospital doctors, but allegedly protested that she was still having breathing problems and should not leave. Regardless of what ultimately caused her death, she clearly should not have been forced to leave, as federal law prohibits hospitals from discharging sick patients simply because they think the patient will not be able to pay. Not only is this potentially an issue of negligence, but also federal tort claims and civil rights violations.

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) prevents hospitals from “dumping” seriously ill or injured patients simply because they cannot pay for treatment. The law applies to all hospitals that have emergency rooms and participate in Medicare (which means nearly all hospitals in the U.S.). Specifically, anyone who seeks treatment in an emergency room must provided with a medical screening and, if they have an emergency medical condition, must be treated and stabilized before being transferred or discharged. Hospitals must follow very specific procedures for a transfer if a patient cannot be stabilized first. Hospitals that do not provide these services can be sued for damages under EMTALA and, separately, can also be sued for negligence and/or medical malpractice.

But how can courts determine if a hospital properly followed the law? There are–from time to time–negligent medical screening examinations that result in harm. Typically, courts will measure the examination with that which would be provided to any other patients, regardless of funds. In addition, once a patient is admitted to the hospital, their care is governed by medical malpractice and personal injury law, not EMTALA.

Contact an Attorney for Help

Attorney Mike Walker in Clearwater, Florida has the experienced and skills necessary to deal with any and all negligence, wrongful death, and federal tort claims. He has practiced in Florida and federal courts and represented clients by being honest, discussing all of your options, and providing a collaborative approach to legal representation. Contact attorney Mike Walker today so that he can provide you with a free consultation and start helping you.