Can an Emergency Room refuse treatment?

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 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.


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