The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA, refers to legislature that governs how medical emergency facilities may or may not refuse a patient treatment or initiate patient transfer to another medical facility. Its main purpose is to prevent hospitals from rejecting patients who are in need of emergency medical intervention.
According to the statute, any patient who comes into an emergency room asking for examination or treatment for his/her medical condition must be appropriately screened if his/her situation qualifies as an emergency medical situation. If so, hospitals are required by law to provide immediate medical care, or transfer him/her to another medical facility in accordance with the legislature. On the other hand, if the tests prove that the person is not in a medical emergency, EMTALA would not impose any further legal obligations upon the hospital.
Similar to medical malpractice damages, emergency facilities proven to be in violation of EMTALA face financial responsibility for the damages a patient incurs. However, EMTALA is never intended to limit or replace a medical malpractice claim; instead, it provides an additional venue through which claimants may recover damages.