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Medical Ethics |

Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor ActEmergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act: What Every Physician Should Know About the Federal Antidumping Law

David A. Hyman, MD, JD; David M. Studdert, ScD, LLB
Author and Funding Information

From the University of Illinois College of Law and College of Medicine (Dr Hyman), Champaign, IL; and the Center for Health Policy (Dr Studdert), Stanford University School of Medicine, and Stanford Law School, Stanford, CA.

CORRESPONDENCE TO: David A. Hyman, MD, JD, University of Illinois College of Law, 504 E Pennsylvania Ave, Champaign, IL 61820; e-mail: dhyman@illinois.edu


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2015;147(6):1691-1696. doi:10.1378/chest.14-2046
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Since 1986, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) has imposed an obligation on hospitals and physicians to evaluate and stabilize patients who present to a hospital ED seeking care. Available sanctions for noncompliance include fines, damages awarded in civil litigation, and exclusion from Medicare. EMTALA uses several terms that are familiar to physicians (eg, “emergency medical condition,” “stabilize,” and “transfer”), but the statutory definitions do not map neatly onto the way in which these terms are used and understood in clinical settings. Thus, there is potential for a mismatch between a physician’s on-the-spot professional judgment and what the statute demands. We review what every physician should know about EMTALA and answer six common questions about the law.


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