EMMC Responds to Jury Verdict in EMTALA Case

10/22/2010

(Bangor, ME) - Eastern Maine Medical Center was notified late Wednesday that a federal court jury in Bangor had returned a decision against the hospital in an EMTALA case that was heard in court earlier in the week. EMTALA is a federal law that ensures patients’ access to emergency medical services.

In the specific case, a former patient sued EMMC claiming she was discharged while she was in an emergency medical condition. The patient came to EMMC’s Emergency Department experiencing cramps and pain in July, 2007. During the patient’s evaluation, two EMMC physicians performed ultrasound evaluations and a pelvic exam, and determined that the 16 week-old fetus the woman was carrying had no heartbeat.

In keeping with accepted contemporary medical practice, the patient was was advised to let nature take its course, discharged as stable and advised to contact her personal physician in the morning, or return if her condition changed. The patient did not contact her physician or return to EMMC and miscarried at home that evening.
EMMC’s doctors and nurses are committed to helping women and their families through these tragic events, with the understanding that we cannot always reverse the course of nature. We grieve along with these families when the promise of a pregnancy results in miscarriage. We are confident the care given to this patient while at EMMC was compassionate, thorough, 
and appropriate.

We are taking the jury’s verdict seriously, and we have already started discussions to reexamine our care protocols for women who present at EMMC with a range of symptoms relating to pregnancy and cramping or contractions. The chiefs of the Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emergency Medicine and Family Practice Services are conferring to consider interim procedural changes that would allow EMMC to conform to this jury's interpretation of EMTALA.

However, we believe the jury's interpretation is in conflict with nationally recognized best practice care for pregnant women. We are currently considering whether to appeal the jury's verdict. If upheld, the verdict has the potential to have implications for the care of pregnant women care nationwide.