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October 1995

What Is Left of Futility?The Convergence of Anencephaly and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pediatrics and Medical History and Ethics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(10):1156-1159. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170230110017

In 1986, Congress passed legislation intended to prevent hospitals from "dumping" patients who were unable to pay for their care. This legislation was appended to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).1 The EMTALA imposes two sets of duties on all hospitals that receive Medicare funds. Since 98% of hospitals in the United States participate in the Medicare program, EMTALA applies to nearly all hospitals in the United States. In short, hospitals with an emergency department must provide an appropriate screening examination to any patient who requests treatment. The purpose of the medical screening examination is to determine whether an "emergency medical condition" exists. If an emergency medical condition is discovered, the hospital must either provide treatment sufficient to stabilize the patient's condition or transfer the patient to another medical facility in an acceptable fashion.

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