American Journal of Law & Medicine

Wisconsin District Court Extends EMTALA Whistleblower Protections to Non-Employee Physicians - Muzaffar V. Aurora Health Care Southern Lakes, Inc

On November 27, 2013, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin held that a non-employee physician who has been extended privileges at a hospital is an employee of that hospital for purposes of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act's (EMTALA) whistleblower provision. (2) The decision, which prevents hospitals from retaliating against privileged physicians who report alleged EMTALA violations, changes the landscape of incentives with respect to illegal patient dumping under the law.

EMTALA requires hospitals that participate in Medicare and offer emergency services to provide stabilizing treatment for patients with emergency medical conditions. (3) The law was intended to prevent hospitals from refusing to provide emergency medical care to patients who are unable to pay, or transferring them before their emergency conditions are stabilized--often referred to as "patient dumping." (4) EMTALA contains both a private right of action for individuals harmed by violations of the statute (5) and a whistleblower provision (6) designed "to ensure that such persons are not penalized or retaliated against for reporting violations of EMTALA's terms." (7)

The plaintiff in this case, Dr. Kamal Muzaffar (Dr. Muzaffar), brought a lawsuit against Aurora Health Care Southern Lakes (Aurora), claiming that Aurora retaliated against him because he reported patient transfers that he believed violated EMTALA. (8) Dr. Muzaffar was a member of the medical staff and had admitting privileges at Aurora Lakeland, a subsidiary hospital of Aurora. …

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