ACLU hits Trinity Health with lawsuit alleging EMTALA violations

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health for refusing to provide emergency abortions to women whose incomplete miscarriages put them at high risk of serious complications.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU claims Trinity Health denies appropriate emergency care to women suffering pregnancy complications, including miscarriages, in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

The ACLU specifically alleges one of Trinity's hospitals denied appropriate stabilizing care to several women who suffered a preterm, premature rupture of membranes — a condition in which the amniotic sac breaks and leaves no fluid around the fetus. The refusal of the hospital to terminate the pregnancies resulted in these women "hemorrhaging, contracting life-threatening infections, and/or unnecessarily suffering severe pain for several days," according to the complaint.

When premature rupture happens early in pregnancy, it almost always results in fetal death, Sara Prager, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, told USA TODAY. "This is a situation where there is virtually no chance that the fetus will survive," she said.

Trinity Health requires that all of its hospitals abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which prohibit Catholic hospitals from terminating pregnancies. A spokeswoman for Trinity defended the directives to USA TODAY and said they "are entirely consistent with high-quality healthcare."

The Trinity spokeswoman also said the health system will seek dismissal of the ACLU's lawsuit.

More articles on healthcare industry lawsuits:

Ex-hospital CFO charged with grand theft
Delaware hospital to pay $4M to settle improper billing case
Massachusetts General Hospital to pay record settlement over drug thefts

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