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Medical Screening

The key provision of this statute is the medical screening requirement.

In the case of a hospital that has a hospital emergency department, including ancillary services routinely available to the emergency department if any individual (whether or not eligible for benefits under this subchapter) comes to the emergency department and a request is made on the individual's behalf for examination or treatment for a medical condition, the hospital must provide for an appropriate medical screening examination within the capability of the hospital's emergency department to determine whether or not an emergency medical condition (within the meaning of subsection (e)(1) of this section) exists. (1395dd(a))

The statute defines emergency condition much more broadly than the traditional common law definition of care necessary to save life or limb:

a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in--

placing the health of the individual (or, with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy,

serious impairment to bodily functions, or

serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part; or

with respect to a pregnant woman who is having contractions--

that there is inadequate time to effect a safe transfer to another hospital before delivery, or

that transfer may pose a threat to the health or safety of the woman or the unborn child.

If the person has a condition that meets this definition of emergency, the hospital must either stabilize the patient's condition or transfer the patient to another facility. It is the act's definitions of stabilization and appropriate transfer that ensure that the patient receives proper medical treatment.

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