HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Guest Blogger Professor Jean Macchiaroli Eggen - Low-Level Exposures to Chemicals in Drinking Water: Are They Actionable?

Eggen_Headshot (2)A recently filed complaint in California Superior Court will likely bring renewed attention to the growing debate about low levels of chemicals in drinking water and whether and to what extent low-level exposures may be deemed injuries in tort law. In City of Hughson v. Dow Chemical Company (Case No. 14-542221) (filed Oct. 16, 2014), the City alleged that the public water supply was contaminated with 1,2,3-trichloropropane (“TCP”), a chemical byproduct of the manufacture of certain commercial products for use in agriculture and other industries. The complaint alleged that the groundwater used to supply its drinking water was contaminated with TCP generated by various companies named as defendants. EPA has not regulated TCP, though it is on the Contaminant Candidate List. The state of California has issued an advisory notification level for TCP and established a Public Health Goal for the chemical, and the State Water Resources Control Board is in the process of developing a maximum contaminant level (“MCL”) for TCP. The City’s tort action seeks, among other relief, the costs of designing, constructing, and operating treatment facilities and equipment to remove the TCP and to ensure compliance with state and federal drinking water standards. The complaint alleges that levels of TCP in the drinking water have sometimes risen above the state Public Health Goal. It does not allege that any citizens have become ill from exposure to TCP. The case raises some thorny issues:

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November 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guest Blogger Research Fellow and Lecturer in Law Tara A. Ragone: Continued Debates regarding Antitrust Concerns and Professional Licensing Boards

Ragone_lg_1Earlier this year, I blogged about developments concerning antitrust liability and professional licensing boards. In particular, I noted that the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners had asked the United States Supreme Court to review the Fourth Circuit’s decision upholding the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling that the Board was not entitled to state action immunity because it was not actively supervised by the state. I also highlighted a then-forthcoming article in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review by Professors Aaron Edlin and Rebecca Haw that explored whether the actions of state professional licensing boards should be subject to antitrust scrutiny.

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November 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Utah Symposium on the Challenge of Defining Mental Illness

I hope it is ok to post an announcement about a very exciting symposium at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, where I teach.  On Friday, Nov. 7th, we are hosting our annual Law Review Symposium, Legal Borders and Mental Disorders: The Challenge of Defining Mental Illness. The all-day event, organized by Professor Teneille Brown, brings together nationally recognized experts in law and mental health to explore the difficulty of defining mental disorders, and the impact that this has on the law. What counts as a mental disorder?  Is it when your behavior is statistically unusual, when it impairs your functioning, or when others think it is antisocial? For clinical treatment and research, having reliable and discrete labels can help. But what about for the law?  Should the law rely on the same diagnoses as psychiatrists do?  Doesn’t the law value very different things?  How should the law respond to changes in clinical diagnostic structures, such as the 2013 revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (or, “DSM”) developed by the American Psychiatric Association for clinical use--the first substantial revision to the manual in over 30 years.

You can watch the program live here, beginning at 8:30 am MT.

The conference program (all times are MT) is as follows:   

9:15 a.m. – Introduction to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): How Psychiatrists Use It 

    Jan Terpstra, MD

9:45  a.m. – Panel: When Changes to the DSM Affect Health and Education Benefits

    Rebecca Johnson, Medical Sociology PhD Candidate, Princeton University

    Stacey Tovino, Lincy Professor of Law, Lehman Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV

11:00 a.m.  – Panel: The Role of Psychiatric Diagnosis in Civil Commitment and Sentencing

    Sara Gordon, Associate Professor of Law, William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV

    Michael Perlin, Professor of Law, New York Law School

    Nancy Haydt, JD

Conference Kaynote: Professor Elyn Saks, Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, will deliver a lunchtime address beginning at 12:45 p.m. 

1:45 p.m. – Panel: The Future of the DSM: the ethical and legal implications for revolutionizing the “psychiatric bible”

    Jennifer Bard, Alvin R. Allison Professor of Law and Director, Health Law Program, Texas Tech University School of Law

    Teneille Brown, Professor of Law, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah

For further information, check out the law school's website here.

Leslie Francis

November 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Guest Blogger Professor Jean Macchiaroli Eggen: Is Nanotech the Next Asbestos?

Eggen_Headshot (2)Advancements in nanotechnology have led to a proliferation of nanomaterials for both industrial and consumer use, raising concerns about the potential health effects of exposure to nanoparticles on both workers and the general public. Nanotechnology is generally defined as “the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications.”  National Science and Technology Council et al., National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan 1 (Feb. 2014). On the one hand, these characteristics have led to research into previously unattainable applications, such as pesticides, electronics, and certain drug delivery systems within the human body. On the other hand, such developments have generated questions about health risks when nanoparticles are absorbed into the human body or interact with ecosystems in the environment. Scientists have noted that particles at the nano-scale behave differently than non-nano-scale particles of the same substances. Although the United States Government has been studying the risks of nanomaterials, there is disagreement over the need for discrete regulation of nanomaterials. To date, this is an ongoing debate. In advance of any comprehensive or consistent regulation, workers compensation claims and product liability litigation are likely to emerge.

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November 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Introducing Guest Blogger Professor Jean Macchiaroli Eggen

HealthLawProf Blog is very pleased to welcome our second guest blogger for the month of November, Professor Jean Macchiaroli Eggen. The following is her short bio:  

Eggen_Headshot (2)Jean Macchiaroli Eggen is Distinguished Professor of Law at Widener’s Delaware campus. Professor Eggen specializes in toxic torts, torts, and civil procedure. After joining the law faculty of Widener in 1986, she became one of the first legal academics to develop the new discipline of toxic torts and introduce it into the legal curriculum of a law school.

Distinguished Professor Eggen received an A.B. from Connecticut College and an M.A. from Michigan State University, and was a Ph.D. Candidate (ABD) at the University of Michigan. She received a J.D., magna cum laude, from Syracuse University College of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, held the prestigious Syracuse University Graduate Fellowship, and received awards for published writing. Following law school, Professor Eggen worked as a tort and environmental litigation attorney at the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King in Syracuse, New York. She is admitted to practice in New York. 

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November 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Blogger Assistant Professor Marc D. Ginsberg: The Locality Rule And A National Standard Of Care

GinsbergFamiliarity with the “standard of care” applicable to physician-defendants in medical negligence litigation undoubtedly arose in our law school study of tort law. When the care and treatment provided by a physician complies with the “standard of care,” the medical services rendered are consistent with the care required of a reasonably well qualified physician in the same or similar circumstances. Modern medicine, with the assistance of technology, improved facilities and (hopefully) universal access to medical knowledge, no longer resembles medicine in the 1800’s. It was in the 1800’s that the “locality rule” originated. The case of Small v. Howard, 128 Mass. 131 (1880), overruled by Brune v. Belinkoff, 235 N.E.2d 793 (Mass. 1968), is thought to be the origin of the rule. The locality rule placed a geographical aspect on the medical standard of care, requiring a physician to comply with the standard of care applicable in a particular locality or community. The rule “protected” the rural physician, who would not have had access to the resources and knowledge of the urban physician.

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November 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Introducing Guest Blogger Assistant Professor Marc D. Ginsberg

    HealthLawProf Blog is very pleased to welcome the first of our bloggers for the month of November, Assistant Professor Marc D. Ginsberg. The following is his short bio: 

GinsbergMarc D. Ginsberg, B.A., M.A., J.D., LL.M (Health Law), is an Assistant Professor at The John Marshall Law School (Chicago).  He teaches Evidence, Civil Procedure II and Medical Negligence.  He joined the JMLS faculty after many years of representing physicians while practicing law in Chicago at Rooks Pitts and its successor firm.  His scholarship focuses on medical-legal jurisprudence.

November 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Journal of Law and the Biosciences

The Journal of Law and the Biosciences (JLB) is the first fully Open Access peer-reviewed legal journal focused on the advances at the intersection of law and the biosciences. A co-venture between Duke University, Harvard University Law School, and Stanford University, and published by Oxford University Press, this open access, online, and interdisciplinary academic journal publishes cutting-edge scholarship in this important new field. The Journal contains original and response articles, essays, and commentaries on a wide range of topics, including bioethics, neuroethics, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cells, enhancement, patent law, and food and drug regulation. Read the full current issue free online.

Register to receive email alerts each time an issue or article publishes online.

October 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Published This Week

Huffington Post: How Tort 'Reform' Ruins Health Care for Everyone

[Hat tip to Tracy Thomas of the Gender and the Law Prof Blog for sending this our way.]

From the Huffington Post, here is an interesting article entitled How Tort 'Reform' Ruins Health Care for Everyone: 

Ebola-infected Thomas Eric Duncan was misdiagnosed in an emergency room and sent home in Texas, a state where patient safety deteriorated significantly when hospital emergency rooms were immunized for negligence. Beloved comedian Joan Rivers died during an office-based procedure in New York, where an extraordinary 12 percent of adverse events during such procedures result in death.  

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October 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Published This Week

Guest Blogger Research Fellow and Lecturer in Law Tara A. Ragone- State Quarantines: Balancing Public Health with Liberty Interests

Ragone_lg_1Nurse Kaci Hickox is a powerful reminder that states must carefully balance patient’s liberty interests when crafting appropriate, reasonable responses to potential threats to public safety.

Beginning with New York and New Jersey last Friday and now continuing with Illinois, Florida, Maine, and Virginia, states are issuing quarantine orders that exceed the CDC’s federal response. New York and New Jersey initially announced that individuals who had direct contact with a person infected with Ebola while in Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone would be subject to a mandatory 21-day quarantine even if they showed no signs of infection.

Under this policy, New Jersey quarantined Maine nurse Kaci Hickox in a tent at University Hospital in Newark after she returned from caring for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, even though reportedly she did not initially display any symptoms and subsequently tested negative for the disease. The American Civil Liberties Union demanded that Governor Chris Christie disclose how the state had determined that mandatory quarantine of healthcare workers was medically necessary and expressed its “serious constitutional concerns” regarding the policy. New Jersey quickly changed course, announcing that Ms. Hickox would be permitted to return home, subject to Maine’s home quarantine requirement.

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October 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hot off the press!

In this article, published today at the Illinois Law Review online, Jessica Roberts and I argue why the Medicaid expansion is a matter of social justice that must be taken seriously in the upcoming gubernatorial elections.  Here's the blurb from the journal:

On the doorstep of its fiftieth anniversary, Medicaid at last could achieve the ambitious goals President Lyndon B. Johnson enunciated for the Great Society upon signing Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965. Although the spotlight shone on Medicare at the time, Medicaid was the “sleeper program” that caught America’s neediest in its safety net—but only some of them. Medicaid’s exclusion of childless adults and other “undeserving poor” loaned an air of “otherness” to enrollees, contributing to its stigma and seeming political fragility. Now, Medicaid touches every American life. One in five Americans benefits from Medicaid’s healthcare coverage, and that number soon will increase to one in four due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Medicaid’s universalization reveals that the program can now be best understood as a vehicle for civil rights. ...

October 27, 2014 in Affordable Care Act, Coverage, Disabilities, Health Care Reform, Medicaid, Obama Administration, Politics, PPACA, Public Health | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for papers

Feel like you just need to get a manuscript out by the end of the academic year?  Worried that your paper didn't get a fair look during the August submission window?  I may have the solution for you! Consider this call for papers:

The Kentucky Law Journal will be opening an exclusive submission window for articles until November 14, 2014 at 5:00 PM EDT. All papers submitted during this window will be reviewed for publication in Volume 103, Issue 4, set for publication in Spring 2015. By submitting your article during this window, you agree to accept a publication offer, should one be extended. This window is available for articles on all topics, including articles previously submitted to the Kentucky Law Journal, though resubmission will be required. Submissions should be between 15,000 and 25,000 words with citations meeting the requirements of The Bluebook.

Submissions should be sent via email to Please include your article, a copy of your C.V. and a short abstract or cover letter. 

October 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ebola: A Problem of Poverty rather than Health

Undoubtedly, the death toll in West Africa would be much lower if Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone had better health care systems or if an Ebola vaccine had been developed already. But as Fran Quigley has observed, Ebola is much more a problem of poverty than of health. Ebola has caused so much devastation because it emerged in countries ravaged by civil wars that disrupted economies and ecosystems.

Ultimately, this Ebola epidemic will be contained, and a vaccination will be developed to limit future outbreaks. But there are other lethal viruses in Africa, and more will emerge in the coming years. If we want to protect ourselves against the threat of deadly disease, we need to ensure that the international community builds functioning economies in the countries that lack them.

Our humanitarian impulses in the past have not been strong enough to provide for the needs of the impoverished across the globe. Perhaps now that our self-interest is at stake, we will do more to meet the challenge.

[cross-posted at Bill of Health and PrawfsBlawg]

October 27, 2014 in Global Health, Policy, Public Health | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fear Mongering by Executive Order

A few days ago the appointment of Ron Klain as the White House’s Ebola czar and Karen DeSalvo as acting assistant secretary at HHS promised an end to the fragmented response to Ebola from our health agencies. The CDC also stepped up its game with new guidances while Homeland Security’s screening at the five major gateways seemed more proportionate than politicized fear mongering proposals to close our borders or institute wrong-headed travel bans. For a while there was the promise of a measured, national response.

Of course, the unthinkable happened. An MSF doctor, one of the few heroes of this tragedy, rode on a subway in New York and went bowling! Dr. Craig Spencer, who had been responsibly monitoring his condition since his return from West Africa immediately notified health authorities and is now being treated at Bellevue Hospital.

 At which point everything fell apart. New Jersey Governor Christie issued Executive Order 164 and his colleagues in New York and Illinois followed with similar but not identical emergency orders. Thereafter, apparently symptom-free MSF nurse Kaci Hickox made the mistake of landing at Newark and soon found herself in isolation. Given the text of Executive Order 164, Ms. Hickox seems to be in a bad place legally. Habeas corpus aside  persons in her position must hope that there is rapid deployment and reliance on the new one-hour PCR Ebola tests that have received emergency authorization from the FDA.

The immediate question is whether disproportionate state responses will stop here or spread to other locations with designated gateways for West African passengers? Worse, will governors of states without such international communication hubs issue similar emergency orders, not because their states are under threat but to show they are "tough on Ebola”? Unfortunately,  Florida with its new "twice-daily health evaluations" order may be the canary in that particular coal mine. 

Disincentivizing heroic health care workers attempting to stop Ebola at its source is not the only problem with these state orders. Harsh, emergency rules create expectations that our border and health officials will execute them, promoting officious mission creep, while abandoning a national approach promotes fragmentation and encourages dysfunction. Worse, draconian and disproportionate responses create fear where prevailing medical science tells us there should only be concern. And, in the unlikely event that the science was wrong and things were to get worse, officials are left with nowhere to go.

October 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Ebola "Czar"

In the wake of Craig Spencer’s decision to go bowling in Brooklyn, governors of three major states—Illinois, New Jersey, and New York—have imposed new Ebola quarantine rules that are inconsistent with national public health policy, are not likely to protect Americans from Ebola, and may compromise the response to Ebola in Africa, as health care providers may find it too burdensome to volunteer where they are needed overseas. Don’t we have an Ebola czar who is supposed to ensure that our country has a coherent and coordinated response to the threat from Ebola?

Of course, the term “czar” was poorly chosen precisely because Ron Klain does not have the powers of a czar. He will oversee the federal response to Ebola, but he cannot control the Ebola policies of each state. Unfortunately, on an issue that demands a clear national policy that reflects medical understanding, public anxieties will give us something much less desirable.

[cross posted at Bill of Health and PrawfsBlawg]

October 25, 2014 in CDC, Global Health, Policy, Politics, Public Health, Public Opinion, Science and Health | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Guest Blogger Research Fellow and Lecturer in Law Tara A. Ragone: Valuable Internet Resource Focused on Healthcare Cost Containment and Competition


Ragone_lg_1Jaime King and colleagues at UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy have been busy building a rich web resource devoted to promoting cost control and competition in health care. The Source for Competitive Healthcare seeks to create a one-stop shop for academics, journalists, state attorneys general, and potential litigants by “posting news articles, policy papers, academic articles, litigation documents, and legislative/regulatory materials, as well as legal and policy-based analysis of those materials,” focused on “market issues, such as provider leverage and reform efforts, including the promotion of price transparency in healthcare.”

The site is relatively new and actively seeking content and feedback, but it already is a valuable treasure trove of information. The Litigation/Enforcement and Legislation/Regulation tabs immediately caught my eye. Each offers an interactive map of the United States highlighting states that are active in this space with links to pleadings, proposed statutory and regulatory language, and other primary sources in addition to analyses. I am exploring ways to weave these resources into simulations in my health law skills class this spring. 

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October 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Guest Blogger Professor Seema Mohapatra: The Role of Physicians in Counseling Women Seeking Elective Egg Freezing: Providing Heightened Informed Consent

MohapatraCurrently, 70% of Apple’s employees are male, and 69% of Facebook’s employees are male. In an effort to recruit and retain more female employees, Facebook and Apple announced earlier this week that they were offering to pay up to $20,000 for egg freezing as a luxury perk. Egg freezing is an expensive process, costing about $10,000 per retrieval and $500 a year for storage. Since, the announcements, much has been discussed about the ethics of offering this technology by an employer, about the need for family friendly work policies, and how this may affect the atmosphere in the workplace for women who choose not to delay motherhood. However, what has been missing in the conversation is the role of a physician in counseling women who seek to freeze their eggs to delay fertility. Already, more companies, such as Virtus Health in Australia, are following Facebook and Apple’s lead, and offering egg freezing as a benefit. If women decide to take advantage of this benefit in greater numbers, because now cost is not a barrier, we need to ensure that physicians give women the realistic view of egg freezing before women decide to undergo the invasive procedure to freeze their eggs.

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October 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Published This Week