Can an Emergency Room refuse treatment?

UPDATED: Apr 15, 2011

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Can an Emergency Room refuse treatment?

I took my daughter to the ER last night because of her coughing. I made it to Triage and the nurses wanted a temp rectally. I refused to let them do that but told them they could take it under her arm instead. They told me they would not treat her unless they did the rectal temp. I told them to tell the doctor that I would not allow a rectal and she returned with the nurse to tell me the same thing. My 2 year-old daughter was not treated and I had to take her to her pediatrician today. Am I able to file a suit against the hospital for this?

Asked on April 15, 2011 under Malpractice Law, Mississippi


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, no--an emergency room may not refuse treatment. It is less clear, though, what the obligation is if the patient--or, in this case, the patient's parent or guardian--refuses to allow the medical personnel to do what they considered a necessary part of the treatment.

However, even without regard to that, if you are fortunate enough that your daughter was not injured and you did not incur significant out-of-pocket losses, then there is nothing to sue for--regardless of legal liability, courts are designed to provide compensation for loss or injury: without loss or injury, no compensation, except in the most egregious cases (e.g. deliberate assault; grossly negligent product design) is generally recoverable. Thus, if your daughter is ok, there's nothing to  sue for. You could contact the state agency/board which regulates hospitals and file a complaint, however.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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