Emergency Room (ER) Care and CRPS

Can You Be Denied Care at a Hospitals’ ER Because You have CRPS or RSD?

Keith Orsini
American RSDHope

November 29, 2013

This is a scary question for many and one that, for some reason, we have been getting asked much more often lately. What used to be a rare occurrence seems to happening with an alarming frequency now and we aren’t quite sure why. 

First, let’s clarify the question. If you visit a Hospital, for reasons other than your CRPS or RSD, can they deny you care? We aren’t talking about the few chronic pain patients who go from hospital to hospital asking for more medications because they have already used up their monthly supply of prescribed medications and are in serious need of pain relief. This does happen, is a serious problem but is a topic for another day.

We also aren’t talking about that very small minority of people who sell their prescription medications and then go to the ER expecting to get pain relief from them. 

Rather, we are talking about legitimate chronic pain patients going to an ER because of some other issue entirely. Maybe they are dealing with a severe migraine for the first time and therefore have no medication for it and no way to contact their Dr. about it. Maybe it is an issue entirely unrelated to pain; perhaps a kidney stone, or they fell down a flight of stairs and damaged their hip, back, or neck? It could be a hundred different things that people go to the ER for every day. We have heard many different reasons from many, many different patients.

What we have also heard from patients is even more troubling. Some are getting refused treatment simply because they have CRPS.They don’t know if it is because the staff hears the diagnosis and suddenly becomes concerned about making the CRPS worse, or if it is a general order from above, or what the reason actually is; all they know is they are told they cannot be helped once they utter those four letters. 

Is there any law, any statute, that says you have to be treated if you go to an E.R.? We didn’t know so we did some research, talked to some disability attorney’s, scoured the internet and here is what we discovered.THE EMTALA STATUTE 

EMTALA is a Federal statutory-regulatory complex, consisting of statutes (laws passed by Congress) and regulations (rules adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, to enforce and further define the EMTALA statute).

Understand, we are not lawyers and not medical professionals here at American RSDHope. We are simply passing along information we think can be helpful to you. If you have any in this area you think is more on-point, please send it along and or correct us on this one. 


According to the law index on the EMTALA website, they state the following;

42 USC § 1395dd – Examination and treatment for emergency medical conditions and women in labor

(a) Medical screening requirement
In the case of a hospital that has a hospital emergency department, if any individual (whether or not eligible for benefits under this subchapter) comes to the emergency department and a request is made on the individual’s behalf for examination or treatment for a medical condition, the hospital must provide for an appropriate medical screening examination within the capability of the hospital’s emergency department, including ancillary services routinely available to the emergency department, to determine whether or not an emergency medical condition (within the meaning of subsection (e)(1) of this section) exists.

(b) Necessary stabilizing treatment for emergency medical conditions and labor(

1) In general
If any individual (whether or not eligible for benefits under this subchapter) comes to a hospital and the hospital determines that the individual has an emergency medical condition, the hospital must provide either–
(A) within the staff and facilities available at the hospital, for such further medical examination and such treatment as may be required to stabilize the medical condition, or
(B) for transfer of the individual to another medical facility in accordance with subsection (c) of this section.

(2) Refusal to consent to treatment
A hospital is deemed to meet the requirement of paragraph (1)(A) with respect to an individual if the hospital offers the individual the further medical examination and treatment described in that paragraph and informs the individual (or a person acting on the individual’s behalf) of the risks and benefits to the individual of such examination and treatment, but the individual (or a person acting on the individual’s behalf) refuses to consent to the examination and treatment. The hospital shall take all reasonable steps to secure the individual’s (or person’s) written informed consent to refuse such examination and treatment.

There is more and I would suggest you visit THE EMTALA PAGE HERE to read it. 
I have also included a link to the BASICS of the EMTALA Statute and a link to the EMTALA FAQ section as well at the end of this article. 

If this happens to you, if you visit the ER and are refused emergency treatment, I would do the following;

1) First and foremost obviously get the best help you can as quickly as you can to remedy the situation. Your health comes first, complaints come second. So get the medical help you need first.

2) Document everything! Always bring someone with you whenever you go to the Dr., hospital, or any type of medical appointment. You aren’t always in the best frame of mind to deal with medical decisions, to remember what they might ask you, or to answer their questions, nor to deal with what might be difficult situations if you are not feeling your best. Bring someone with you who has all of your medical information, who can be your advocate, who can make decisions for you, answer their questions about your health, your medical background, and if necessary make a stand for you. They can also take notes for you on what occurs, good or bad, for you to look over later.

3) If there is a problem, whether it is at an ER or at a Drs. office, follow-up the next day with the administrator of the facility. They need to know if a staff member was impolite, unresponsive, rude, or wonderful to their customers. Too often we let these incidents slide and the next person has to suffer for it or we don’t give the pat on the back to those fantastic Drs., nurses, and other staff members who take such good care of us when we feel at our worst. Let them know so they can take corrective action. You might be surprised at the results. 

4) If you still get no response then you can take it further, especially if it was a refusal of care. 

5) The bottom line is to remember that you are paying the bill even if it is through your insurance or Medicare. YOU are the paying customer so they work for you. Demand the best care, expect the best care, and at the same time treat them as your best employees.

EMTALA – JUST THE BASICS – Click on this link to learn the basics of the EMTALA Statute in plain english. 

EMTALA LIST OF FAQ’S – On the EMTALA website there is a list of Frequently Asked Questions that you may find very helpful as well. Just click on the link. You can also visit their HOME page to see what else they offer. It is a great website with a wealth of information provided.