The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”), 42 U.S.C. Section 1395 dd, protects women with dead fetuses as well as those with live fetuses according to John A. Woodcock, Jr., Chief United States District Court Judge in Morin v. Eastern Maine Medical Center, 1:09-cv-00258 in his recent Order On Motion For Order Granting Equitable Relief and On Reneewed Motion for Judgment As a Matter of Law. His motion denied the Eastern Maine Medical Center’s motion for post judgement relief from a jury finding last October that a jury erred in awarding $50,000 in compensatory damages and $150, 000 in punitive damages to a women who was sent home from the hospital with a dead fetus after she appeared in the hospital’s ER seeking help.
The plaintiff was 16 weeks pregnant and was experiencing extreme pain from contractions when she appeared in the ER at Eastern Maine Medical Center (“EMMC”). She had driven with her boyfriend and later husband from Millinocket, Maine to Bangor which is an hour and fifteen minutes away. When she arrived her fetus was confirmed to be dead and she was advise to just go home and await “nature taking its course” despite an acknowledged risk of hemorrhaging or severe bleeding and emotional trauma. She requested continuing treatment but was told to return home. She returned home and several hours later locked her boyfriend/husband out of the bathroom and proceed to miscarriage on the bathroom floor. She placed her unborn son in box and paced back and forth all night while holding her son and herself hemorrhaging.
- EMMC sought to set aside the jury’s judgement on four grounds:
- Her pregnancy was not an “emergency medical condition so as to implicate EMTALA.
- The plaintiff failed to present competent medical testimony other than the testimony of a nurse to support her contentions.
- Upset, crying and experience of stress not enough to establish potential threats to her health and safety.
- There was no evidence of personal harm as there was no medical testimony on causation.
The court found EMMC’s arguments “legally wrong and morally questionable.” He perceived the nurse’s testimony together with the testimony of three physicians for the defense more than sufficient to establish the “expert predicate.” He also found in support of the punitive damages award that “EMMC’s actions were ‘so outrageous that malice toward a person injured as a result of the conduct can be implied. ‘“ The defense in this case seems tone deaf. The case can be found at https://op.bna.com/hl.nsf/r?Open=psts-8ffs3r.