Corporate Compliance

Court: Hospitals must provide EMTALA screenings to newborns

Compliance Monitor, July 20, 2005

Court: Hospitals must provide EMTALA screenings to newborns

Newborns born in a hospital birthing center with an emergent condition are entitled to a medical screening under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). That's according to a decision recently reached by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The decision came in the case of Shannon Preston v. Meriter Hospital, handed down July 13.

The case involved Shannon Preston, a woman who was admitted to Meriter Hospital in Madison, WI with pregnancy complications, 23 weeks into her term. She gave birth to a baby who died fewer than three hours later.

Preston alleges that the hospital did nothing to prolong the baby's life and made this decision without providing him with a medical screening. She claims the hospital discriminated against her and her baby because they lacked private insurance.

The hospital contends it followed correct procedures.

The Supreme Court ruled that babies born in birthing centers are entitled to an EMTALA medical screening, should their condition be emergent.

"The duty to provide a medical screening examination should not depend upon the hospital room-be it the emergency room, the birthing center, or an operating room-into which a baby is born," read the decision.

The judges left it to a lower court to decide whether, in this case, Meriter administered an adequate medical screening under EMTALA. The EMTALA law does not currently define the scope of an adequate medical screening exam. The decision also did not address how Preston's status as an inpatient affected her baby's patient status.

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