Healthcare News & Insights

Patient claims EMTs kidnapped him, refuses to pay bill


Can an uninsured patient with a head injury refuse medical treatment he or she simply can’t afford?

That’s the question being raised by one patient after his recent hospital saga.

Last August, Terry Barth of Loomis, California, was out for a leisurely motorcycle ride when one wonky turn threw him off his bike. He hit his head and suffered other minor injuries. But when EMTs showed up on the scene, Barth refused treatment, telling the paramedics repeatedly that he didn’t have insurance and didn’t want to go to the hospital.

But because Barth had suffered at least one obvious head injury which might impede his decision-making ability, the paramedics loaded him up in the ambulance anyway. Barth was taken to the local hospital and then eventually flown to the nearest trauma center. He had a concussion and a broken eye socket.

His total cost for the treatment: $40,000. The hospital is working with him to reduce the bill and develop a payment plan.

But Barth says he feels like he was “kidnapped” and forced to receive treatment he didn’t want — and therefore shouldn’t have to pay any of the bill. The paramedics said that while patients do have a right to refuse treatment there are some cases, including head trauma and diabetic shock, where they are authorized to make the call for the patient because they may not be in state of mind to make decisions for themselves.

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