ClickCease Can You Sue a Doctor for Not Treating You?
01/25/23   |   By

Can You Sue a Doctor for Not Treating You?

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If you have been turned away when seeking medical treatment, you are probably wondering if you have any recourse. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you should consider consulting with a medical malpractice attorney. You could be entitled to financial compensation.

Can a Doctor Refuse to Treat a Patient?

The CDC estimates that nearly 130 million patients go to the emergency room each year in the United States. Public and private hospitals both are required to provide emergency care to individuals even without insurance.

In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, also known as EMTALA. EMTALA requires private hospitals receiving public funding through Medicare to provide emergency treatment to anyone in need whether or not they can pay for the medical care out of pocket or with insurance. EMTALA also requires hospitals to treat patients until they are stable even without payment. It mandates that a hospital may not release someone in need of medical care to another hospital based on that person’s inability to pay.

What Healthcare Facilities Fall Under EMTALA?

Not all healthcare facilities are included in EMTALA’s mandates. Some types of emergency service providers not included in EMTALA are:

  • Hospitals with no emergency department.
  • Laboratories that do not provide emergency services.
  • Hospitals that are not funded by the federal government.
  • Private hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Can a Hospital Legally Deny Emergency Care?

There are specific circumstances when a hospital is not required to perform emergency care. Some of these situations include patients who:

  • Behave inappropriately or dangerously.
  • Are not sick or suffering from pain or illness.
  • Are likely only seeking emergency treatment to obtain drugs or pain medication and not for legitimate emergency services.

What Is Medical Gaslighting?

doctor removing surgical gloves Medical gaslighting is when a healthcare provider doubts or dismisses a patient’s symptoms. Sometimes this means that the medical provider blames a patient’s illness on psychological facts. A medical provider might downplay or even blow off your symptoms by convincing you that you are wrong or that you are imagining your problems. Some of the signs of gaslighting that you should be aware of are when your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • Does not engage or listen when you discuss your issues.
  • Does not write down or take notes on your issues and does not ask follow-up questions.
  • Makes it hard to get a referral.
  • Does not discuss your symptoms with you.
  • Interrupts when you voice concerns.
  • Tries to downplay your concerns or convince you that nothing is wrong.
  • Blames you for your symptoms.
  • Forces you to advocate for yourself to be taken seriously.

Medical gaslighting can have significant consequences. It can delay a patient from receiving a correct diagnosis or a diagnosis at all. This can cause a patient to endure a painful or stressful medical situation and creates resentment and mistrust of medical professionals. Some such patients might be perceived as hypochondriacs, with a fear of becoming sick or making a bigger deal about symptoms than is necessary. Statistics show that the following people groups are more likely to experience medical gaslighting:

  • Women. Studies show that women are 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack and 33 percent more likely to have an incorrect diagnosis after a stroke. Women are also often misdiagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Those with reproductive health issues. Many don’t like to talk about reproductive issues because these conversations may be uncomfortable. Some studies even show that over 70 percent of women had their symptoms disregarded by friends, family, and their physicians.
  • Children and adolescents. Society has taught us to downplay children’s and teens’ health concerns as something that will go away or will disappear after puberty.
  • Underserved populations. People of color are another group likely to experience medical gaslighting. A 2015 study from the Journal of Women’s Health found that African American women have a two-month delay in being diagnosed and treated with breast cancer compared with caucasian women.
  • People who are overweight or obese. Studies have demonstrated that there is a weight bias in healthcare. Many report that doctors were condescending or patronizing toward them and made assumptions about their health based on weight and not on genuine health concerns.

What Happens if a Doctor Refuses a Patient?

EMTALA imposes various punishments, including:

  • Fines up to $50,000 for healthcare providers.
  • Terminating the healthcare provider’s medicare provider agreement.
  • Allowing the hospital to be sued for personal injury.

Are There Situations Where a Private Hospital Can Refuse to Treat a Patient?

Doctors Hospital Corridor Nurse Pushing Gurney Stretcher Bed - Failure to Treat AttorneysEMTALA does not normally apply to private hospitals, which may refuse patients emergency care. Private hospitals are only prohibited from refusing treatment if they refuse service in a discriminatory way, which includes discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or religion.

Other hospitals may refuse treatment for the following reasons:

  • If the potential patient cannot pay for the medical care.
  • If the hospital was clear that it would not treat potential patients with the specific illness that the patient presented with.
  • If the potential patient has a previous unpaid bill for previous treatment.
  • If the particular doctor has moral or religious reasons to not perform the treatment.
  • If the doctor’s office is not accepting new patients.
  • If the patient is displaying inappropriate or offensive behavior.
  • If the patient has behaved in such a way that the hospital or doctor could reasonably conclude that the patient is only seeking drugs.
  • If the hospital or doctor’s office no longer accepts the patient’s health insurance.

What If My Situation Does Not Fall Under EMTALA?

The best way to recover compensation after being refused treatment is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Even if your claim doesn’t line up perfectly with EMTALA, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit for negligence.

How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?

Car accident claims are often the result of a negligent action. Negligence is the failure to act with the level of care that a reasonably careful person would have used. Each personal injury claim is different, but negligence claims generally must prove four elements:

  • A duty of care. The party who was at fault (doctor or healthcare provider) must have owed the injured party a duty of reasonable care. This is an obligation to avoid harming others when the harm is foreseeable. However, for doctors, this standard is much higher because of their training and experience. A doctor’s actions will be evaluated based on what a reasonable doctor would have done in the situation.
  • Breach of the duty of care. The injured party must prove that the doctor breached the standard of care owed to them.
  • That negligence caused the injury. The injured party needs to show a direct link between the action and their injury. The negligence must have been an essential part of the harm caused by the doctor. This can be complicated in medical malpractice if the harm caused to the patient had multiple causes or multiple healthcare workers failed to notice something.
  • Actual damages. The injured party must be able to prove that they suffered actual injury and that it caused them damages like more medical bills or lost wages. These damages can also be the mental pain and suffering from the malpractice incident.

How Quickly Would I Need to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical malpractice claims must be filed within a specified time period. A statute of limitations is a limit on how long after your accident you can file your claim. Statutes of limitations are meant to protect against unfair lawsuits by making sure the injured party in the legal action can still gather the evidence needed to fairly defend themselves.

The statute of limitations in a medical malpractice suit will depend on the place where the medical malpractice occurred, whether the malpractice caused death, and when the malpractice was discovered.

The length of the statute of limitations will depend on the state, but in Washington, DC, you have three (3) years from the date of the medical error to file your claim, though this clock can also start from the date you discovered the harm. In Maryland, you have 3 years to file your claim and in Virginia, you have 2 years to file.

To guarantee that you do not miss these important deadlines, you should speak with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you can. Once the statute of limitations runs on your claim, you will not have the right to pursue it and recover damages any longer.

Why Should I Choose Regan Zambri Long, PLLC as My Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

Jacqueline at desk talking to clientIf you have been turned away when seeking medical treatment, one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help. We are confident that we can reach the settlement you deserve. Our medical malpractice lawyers have years of experience and have handled thousands of cases in the Washington, DC, area and other surrounding areas. Regan Zambri Long has settled some of the largest settlements and verdicts for medical malpractice in the area, including an $11 million settlement in a medical malpractice case against a health maintenance organization after heart surgery.

Our lawyers often operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they are compensated for their services only after you win, and the amount owed is based on the amount you win at trial. Call Regan Zambri Long today or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.

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