Articles Posted in Health Law

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The question this case presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on whether a mentally-competent-but-terminally-ill patient had a constitutional right to have a willing physician, consistent with accepted medical practices, prescribe a safe medication that the patient may self-administer for the purpose of peacefully ending the patient’s life. The implications of a "yes" from the Supreme Court would have been that a willing physician could assist the patient and avoid criminal liability because Section 30-2-4 would be unconstitutional as applied to the physician. If the Court answered "no," the alternatives for the patient would be to: (1) endure the prolonged physical and psychological consequences of a terminal medical condition that the patient finds intolerable; or (2) take his or her own life, possibly by violent or dangerous means. "Although the State does not have a legitimate interest in preserving a painful and debilitating life that will imminently come to an end, the State does have a legitimate interest in providing positive protections to ensure that a terminally ill patient’s end-of-life decision is informed, independent, and procedurally safe." The Court declined to hold that there was an absolute and fundamental constitutional right to a physician’s aid in dying and conclude that Section 30-2-4 was not unconstitutional on its face or as applied to Petitioners in this case. View "Morris v. Brandenburg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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In March 2007, Plaintiff Dara Hem brought suit in a Texas federal court after he was seriously injured in an accident. Hem was traveling through northern New Mexico when his Toyota truck separated from the U-Haul trailer it was towing, causing the truck to roll over several times. After treating Hem for his injuries, the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) recorded a hospital lien for Hem's outstanding medical bills. The lien would attach to any future judgment or settlement he might procure from a lawsuit, pursuant to the Hospital Lien Act. Although Hem did not dispute the amount owed, UNMH agreed to compromise on the lien amount and accept a lesser amount as payment in full. In exchange, one of Hem's attorneys, Miller, agreed to give up his statutory priority over settlement funds already obtained from U-Haul and some anticipated settlement funds from Toyota, so UNMH would be paid first. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether the agreement UNMH made to reduce the amount of a lien for medical services rendered violated Article IV, Section 32 of the New Mexico Constitution. UNMH argued it had priority over settlement funds pursuant to the agreement between itself and Hem's initial attorney, Clay Miller. Hem's second attorney, Turner & Associates, P.A. (claimant in interpleader) argued that this agreement was unconstitutional. Therefore, Turner argued that it has a priority right to collect fees and costs out of the interpleaded settlement funds prior to the satisfaction of the hospital lien, pursuant to the Act. The New Mexico Supreme Court held that: (1) the first clause of Section 32 was correctly interpreted in State Investment and is strictly a limitation on the Legislature; and (2) Article IV, Section 32 of the New Mexico Constitution does not prohibit UNMH from agreeing to compromise the amount owed by a patient-debtor. View "Hem v. Toyota Motor Corp." on Justia Law

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There is no hospital in Valencia County. People in Valencia County who are faced with a medical emergency must deal with the emergency itself, and find a way to travel twenty to thirty-five miles to an Albuquerque hospital. Ambulances coming from Valencia County can take two hours or longer to transport a patient to the nearest hospital, process the patient, and return. The long turnaround times mean that ambulance companies sometimes run at full capacity, or “zero status,” and cannot respond to calls from new patients because all available ambulances are in use. Since 1987, appellant Living Cross Ambulance Service has been the only ambulance company in Valencia County operating under a permanent certificate from the Public Regulation Commission (PRC). Living Cross has been at zero status and unavailable to transport patients for less than one percent of ambulance service requests. When Living Cross is at zero status, dispatch requests mutual aid from a nearby ambulance company, and if those mutual aid ambulances are also unavailable, the municipality whose EMTs first responded to the scene must transport the patients at the municipality’s expense. This case was a direct appeal from a final order of the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) granting a permanent certificate to American Medical Response Ambulance Service, Inc. d/b/a American Medical Response, Emergicare (AMR) for both emergency and nonemergency ambulance service in Valencia County. Living Cross petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court to vacate the final order of the PRC, claiming that the PRC acted arbitrarily and capriciously by granting AMR’s certificate because there was no evidence of need for non-emergency ambulance service in Valencia County, and because there was insufficient evidence of need for additional emergency ambulance service. Living Cross also claimed that the PRC abused its discretion by allowing Living Cross’s former attorney to represent AMR in an initial hearing before ruling on its motion to disqualify the attorney. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the PRC decision to allow the former Living Cross attorney to appear for AMR during the hearing for the temporary permit was contrary to law, and that the wholesale admission of the record from that hearing as evidence in the hearing for the permanent certificate was plain error, requiring reversal. Because the Court determined that the attorney disqualification issue is dispositive, it did not reach the other issues in this case. View "Living Cross Ambulance Serv. v. N.M. Pub. Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, the issue this case presented to the New Mexico Supreme Court was whether pharmacists who dispense prescription drugs to Medicaid recipients must be paid under the formula set forth in NMSA 1978, Section 27-2-16(B) (1984). Section 27-2-16(B) was enacted when New Mexico only operated under a fee-for-services model. The Legislature created a new, alternative managed care system in 1994 in an effort to rein in costs of medical public assistance. The district court and our Court of Appeals held that Section 27-2-16(B) applied in both the fee-for-services context and in managed care settings. Upon review, however, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that Section 27-2-16(B) applied only in the fee-for-services context, which requires HSD to directly reimburse providers. View "Starko, Inc. v. New Mexico Human Servs. Dep't" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether defendant professional corporations and a limited liability company were "health care providers" as defined by the state Medical Malpractice Act so as to be able to receive the Act's benefits. The Court of Appeals determined that though Defendants did not literally meet the Act's definition of "health care provider," it nonetheless held that Defendants were health care providers under the Act because a strict adherence to the plain language of the definition would conflict with legislative intent. Although the Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court's determination that the definition of "health care provider" literally excludes Defendants. The Supreme Court concluded that several provisions in the Act indicated that the Legislature intended professional medical organizations like Defendants to be covered by the Act. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals but on different grounds. View "Baker v. Hedstrom" on Justia Law