Annas argues that current public policy that emphasizes cost containment over quality of care and equity of access is an effort to transform medical care from a social good to an economic good. This trend threatens to erode the community ethic of providing emergency care to all regardless of ability to pay. The author cites statistics and cases that reveal a trend by hospitals to deny emergency care or to transfer medically unstable patients for economic reasons. Courts have upheld the right to emergency treatment and physicians, who determine what is an emergency, are urged to oppose hospital policies that compromise patient care and to reaffirm their ethical stance. The author concludes that state regulations should define emergency broadly, develop "emergency transfer protocols," and provide for sanctions against institutions and personnel that violate them.
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