Monday, May 31, 2004

Alan Morrison . . . living greatly in the law.

Alan Morrison is closing shop at the Public Citizen Litigation Group in Washington and leaving for a teaching job at Stanford, according to an article in the May 24th Legal Times (requires paid subscription; also available on WestLaw). This is the lawyer who brought us Virginia Pharmacy Board, Chadha, Bowsher, Mistretta, and the motion to recuse Justice Scalia from the Cheney energy case (which

Sunday, May 30, 2004

New Texas Supreme Court case on workers' comp.

Texas Workers' Compensation Commission v. Patient Advocates of Texas, No. 02-0804, decided May 28:In 1989, the Legislature enacted a new Workers’ Compensation Act in response to rising medical costs and increasing insurance premiums. The Legislature created the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission and gave the agency broad powers to adopt rules necessary for the implementation and enforcement

Radicalized elders turn to drug smuggling.

Good article by Elisabeth Weil in today's N.Y. Times re: groups of elders who engage in illegal prescription drug reimportation. The piece is entitled "Grumply Old Drug Smugglers."

Harvard Medical amends conflict-of-interest policies

Trend-setter Harvard Medical School has amended its conflict policy for researchers, acording to an article in The Boston Globe.Under the policy, Harvard faculty cannot own more than $30,000 in stock from public companies that benefit from their research, a $10,000 increase from the previous limit. They cannot have any stock from companies with which they have ongoing research collaborations. In

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Monkey business affects waiting times on transplant list in Albany.

Modern Healthcare's Daily Dose is reporting (alternate link) that yesterday the New York Health Department "fined Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center Hospital $18,000 for falsely reporting patient information in its heart-transplant program. The state accused the 576-bed academic medical center of exaggerating the seriousness of patient conditions to move transplant candidates higher on the transplant

Maternal-fetal conflicts: a moving target.

The Associated Press had a good article this week on a raft of recent cases in which authorities of one kind or another have come into conflict with pregnant women and the decisions they made concerning childbirth. Here's a link to the CNN publication of the story, which should be pretty stable for the next few months or years.

Interesting intersection of universal health care coverage, same-sex marriage, and domestic-partners' benefits

There is an Associated Press story out (published in today's Portsomouth (N.H.) Herald) about my hometown, Springfield, Mass. The article reports that Springfield is dropping health benefits for same-sex unmarried domestic partners of city employees. Cost is an obvious culprit, but there is also the issue of Massachusetts' decision to allow same-sex marriages. Now that this option is legally

Physician-Assisted Suicide.

I am no great fan of legalizing physician-assisted suicide (PAS). But once a state has gone down that road, as Oregon has with its Death With Dignity law, it's exceedingly important for the federal government to get out of the way and not impose its pro-life political stance on states that see things a little differently. Just as this administration has done with California's experiment with

Prisoner Abuse and Doctors' Duty.

Over the past few years, a couple of medical journals have quite regularly published articles on the torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees and the duty of physicians. Among the most active on this topic have been JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Lancet, and BMJ; a PubMed search for articles with "torture" in the title turns up 589 hits. Until now, it's been easy to dismiss those

Monday, May 17, 2004

Texas Supreme Court decides informed-consent case.

In one of its famously tardy decisions (argued April 23, 2003; decided May 7, 2004), the Texas Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Owen (frequently the author of famously tardy opinions), unanimously held last week in Binur v. Jacobo, No. 02-0405, that "an erroneous prognosis that is the basis for recommending surgery cannot be the basis of a cause of action for lack of informed consent."

Saturday, May 8, 2004

IRS ruling a template for hospital-physician deals.

As reported yesterday by Modern Healthcare, the IRS has issued Revenue Ruling 2004-51, which lays out the ground rules for nonprofit health care providers who want to go into ancillary joint ventures with for-profit entities. According to the story:The five-page revenue ruling offers a template for how not-for-profit hospitals can protect their tax-exempt status and avoid paying

Friday, May 7, 2004

Schiavo timeline and significant documents.

Thanks are due to professors Steven Haidar and Kathy Cerminara for putting together a most useful timeline for the Schiavo case. My only suggestion for an additional citation is to the actual session law version of Terri's Law: chapt. 2003-418. The timeline is otherwise an altogether admirable and useful attempt to pull together everything a person might want to know about the history of this

Thursday, May 6, 2004

"Terri's Law" declared unconstitutional by Florida court.

It didn't seem possible that the case could come out any other way, but at least it's now official. On Wednesday, Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird of the Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County declared that the hastily enacted Terri's Law (chapt. 2003-418), which authorized Gov. Jeb Bush to issue an executive order directing that artificial nutrition and hydration

Limits on Stem-Cell Research Re-emerge as a Political Issue.

A month before the attacks on September 11, President Bush made the first major speech of his presidency, in which he announced the administration's new policy on federal funding for stem-cell research. The new policy significantly modified (PDF) (HTML) the NIH guidelines (PDF) (HTML) (corrected Nov. 21 (PDF) (HTML)) hammered out by NIH Director Harold Varmus in the waning days of the Clinton

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Quality of care lacking in a majority of communities in US.

Another article from the May-June issue of Health Affairs that is sure to create some buzz:"Profiling The Quality Of Care In Twelve Communities: Results From The CQI Study," by Eve A. Kerr, Elizabeth A. McGlynn, John Adams, Joan Keesey and Steven M. Asch.
Abstract: Health care quality falls far short of its potential nationally. Because care is delivered locally, improvement strategies should be

Texas Leads Nation in Percentage of Uninsured Workers.

As reported in today's New York Times, Texas leads the nation (again) in the percentage of its population without health insurance, with 27 percent. For a measure of the financial strains on health care institutions and providers in the Deep South and Southwest generally, the national honor roll of states with the highest percentage of uninsured includes, in order: Texas (27%), Louisiana (23%),

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Two must-read articles in the current issue of Health Affairs.

"How Does the Quality of Care Compare in Five Countries?," by Peter S. Hussey, Gerard F. Anderson, Robin Osborn, Colin Feek, Vivienne McLaughlin, John Millar and Arnold Epstein -- 23(3):89-99.
Abstract: International data on quality of medical care allow countries to compare their performance to that of other countries. The Commonwealth Fund International Working Group on Quality Indicators

HHS/CMS effort to silence CMS' chief actuary probably violated federal law.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily Health Policy Report has done an excellent job in today's report rounding up the various strands of the story about the squelching of CMS' chief actuary:The Congressional Research Service on Monday concluded that Bush administration officials "appear to have violated federal law" by barring CMS chief actuary Richard Foster from sharing with lawmakers his cost