TMA Backs Definition of Emergency in Obstetrical Case

Last month, TMA signed on to the Texas Alliance for Patient Access' (TAPA's) friend-of-the-court brief to support the application of the willful and wanton standard in a lawsuit involving emergency obstetrical care. TMA, TAPA, and other signatories contend emergency care provisions apply to medical care provided in an obstetrical unit without the pregnant patient first having been evaluated in a hospital's emergency department. 

A Denton obstetrician-gynecologist's reaction to a 2011 shoulder dystocia birth in which the baby was born with neurologic dysfunction in his right arm rests at the heart of a negligence lawsuit now in the hands of the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. The appeals court will look at whether shoulder dystocia elevates a delivery to emergency care according to the law, and if so, whether the parents of the child must establish gross negligence on the part of the physician.

A district court previously ruled in favor of the physician and his practice, which argue the plaintiffs must show the physician acted with willful and wanton negligence. The court's ultimate decision has implications for a number of physicians in emergency care situations, including emergency department physicians and practitioners in obstetrics units and surgical suites.

The brief says both traditional emergency rooms and obstetrical units serve as emergency departments for pregnant women. Requiring the patient to first receive care in a traditional emergency department for the statute to apply, TAPA wrote, "would create an absurd and illogical result" and make physicians face a "disparate application" of that law.

"Should doctors and health care providers be encouraged to waste precious time and resources arbitrarily routing pregnant patients through a traditional emergency department in order to receive the protection of the Statute, ignoring what is in the best interest of the patient's medical treatment? Certainly not!" the brief states. "The plain language and intent of the Statute is clear."

For more information about the case, read "The Right Standard?" in the October issue of Texas Medicine 

Action, Sept. 15, 2016

Last Updated On

October 11, 2016

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