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In re Baby K

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
16 F.3d 590 (1994)


Baby K was born with anencephaly, a condition resulting in severe breathing difficulty, respiratory failure, and death. Because aggressive treatment would serve no beneficial purpose, physicians recommended to the infant’s mother, Ms. H, that Baby K only be given nutrition, hydration, and warmth. Ms. H refused and demanded that Baby K be provided with aggressive treatment any time she experienced difficulty breathing. Thereafter, the hospital unsuccessfully sought to transfer Baby K to another facility willing to provide the requested treatment. Approximately 30 days after birth, Baby K was stable enough to be transferred to a nursing home. Since being transferred, however, Baby K had to be readmitted to the hospital due to breathing difficulties. Each time the hospital provided stabilization treatment to Baby K she was then transferred back to the nursing home. After Baby K’s second admission, the hospital filed an action against Ms. H, the father Mr. K, and Baby K seeking a declaratory judgment that it should not be required to provide emergency medical treatment that it deems to be ethically inappropriate pursuant to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Baby K’s court appointed guardian and Mr. K joined in the hospital’s request. The district court denied the relief requested and the hospital appealed.

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