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Misdiagnosis Is Not an EMTALA Violation

The federal District Court for Puerto Rico granted a hospital’s motion to dismiss a patient’s EMTALA claim. The patient had arrived at the hospital’s emergency department complaining of acute abdominal pain that was “localized in the epigastric area with diffuse discomfort.” A hospital physician ordered laboratory work, treated the patient with several medications, and discharged the patient several hours later.

Later that day, the patient visited another hospital complaining this time of “severe abdominal pain, diffused, and that was localized at the right lateral quadrant.” The patient was admitted for a perforated appendicitis and underwent surgery. He suffered several complications resulting in blood transfusions, dialysis, and 11 days of intubation in the intensive care unit.

The court ruled that the patient’s allegations of differential treatment by the two hospitals failed to state an EMTALA screening claim because: (1) EMTALA does not impose any requirement that screening protocols between different hospitals be the same; and (2) the patient had different symptoms at the two hospitals. The court noted that the patient’s allegations were properly attributable to the accuracy of the first hospital’s diagnosis rather than disparate treatment between individual patients.

Robles v. Hosp. Wilma N. Vazquez

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