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Emergency rooms have always tested the common law rule of no duty to strangers. There are legions of cases in which blacks have been turned away from all-white hospitals and poor people of all colors have been refused emergency care. Fortunately, these cases are rarer each year, yet abuses are common enough that Congress has created uniform standards for the provision of emergency care and the transfer of emergency patients to other facilities. These are embodied in Examination and Treatment for Emergency Medical Conditions and Women in Labor (the act). The act sweeps away the traditional common law rules for access to emergency care. It applies uniformly in all states and so will make up the remainder of this chapter. The following discussion includes the relevant statutory provisions. Understanding the language of the law will help physicians work with their counsel to ensure that they comply with its provisions.

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