News

Was Jail Best Destination for Man Experiencing Mental Health Crisis?

The man who climbed up onto a sign over Interstate 65 in Nashville earlier this month was sentenced to 20 days in jail -- but the Nashville Scene examines why jail was the ending to this story. While Williams Walters was self-evidently guilty of disorderly conduct and obstructing a roadway, Metro police was also aware that Walters was experiencing a mental health crisis. District Attorney spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said the decision to imprison Walters was “the best disposition to protect the community and the defendant." Metro Public Defender Dawn Deaner responded, “This leaves the criminal justice system on the hook for addressing what is actually a public health problem — something we are ill-suited to do.” 

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Bill Would End Shield for Parents Choosing Prayer Over Medical Care

Parents who want to rely on spiritual means to treat a sick child in lieu of medical or surgical treatment would lose a legal shield under a bill filed today by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville. SB 1761 removes the exemption, known as the Spiritual Treatment Exemption Act, the Tennessean reports.

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TMA Seeks Amendment to Protect Damage Caps

The Tennessee Medical Association is asking for a constitutional amendment that protects the General Assembly's ability to set caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, The Commercial Appeal reports. The proposed legislation comes after a Chattanooga judge last year ruled Tennessee’s cap is unconstitutional. TMA argues that the cap is necessary to keep good doctors in the state, but some attorneys argue the caps “infringe on the right of trial by jury.”

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Body Weight: From Malnutrition to Obesity, 1 Hour of CLE

Improving health is a popular New Years resolution, but knowing and understanding issues with changing body weight is important for attorneys and their clients. The Evolving Tipping Point of Body Weight: From Malnutrition to Obesity, an online CLE planned for Jan. 27 at noon, will provide useful information and insights on the etiology, risks and effects of changes in weight. The course is approved for one CLE credit.

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Mental Health Court Opens in Shelby County

Shelby County launched its Mental Health Court under the leadership of Shelby County General Sessions Judge Gerald Skahan, the Memphis Flyer reports. Defendants suffering from mental illness will have a chance to have their charges dropped in exchange for completing a year-long mental health treatment plan. "The benefit to the community is this is a tremendous savings because it's expensive to house somebody in jail and give them their medicine,” Skahan said.

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Baptist Healing Trust Lawsuit

An item in Tuesday’s issue of TBAT incorrectly reported the amount of money that Baptist Healing Trust has awarded to health care agencies and non-profits. Baptist Healing Trust, which supports programs that help people enroll in health insurance on the exchange, has awarded more than 1,000 grants totaling $72 million.

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Baptist Healing Trust Files Lawsuit Against Federal Agency

Baptist Healing Trust filed a lawsuit against Pension Benefits Guaranty Corp. in an attempt to protect Baptist's $123.9 million in assets during the sale of Baptist Hospital to Saint Thomas Health. The federal pension agency received authority in 2013 from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Middle District of Tennessee to pursue the Nashville non-profit’s assets, The Tennessean reports. Baptist Healing Trust has awarded more than $72 million in grants and supports programs that help people enroll in health insurance on the federally run exchange. "We are just so passionate, so heartfelt about what we do, that we’re going to do whatever it takes to protect that work,” said Cathy Self, CEO and president of Baptist Healing Trust.

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Female Attorneys File Brief in Abortion Case

More than a hundred women in the legal profession who “have exercised their constitutional right to an abortion” filed a brief in support of petitioners in an upcoming abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, debates restrictions on clinics and physicians who provide abortions in Texas. “To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion,” one of the women wrote. Read more from The Atlantic.

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Rep. Womick Introduces New Ultrasound Abortion Bill

Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, again filed the "Woman's Ultrasound Right to Know Act," which requires women to undergo an ultrasound test before they have an abortion. The Tennessean reports the bill, revised from a 2015 edition, also requires the doctor to give the woman the opportunity to see the live ultrasound, see a picture from the ultrasound and hear any heartbeat that may exist. "I think it’s just an attempt by politicians to frighten women who are often in emotional or stressful situations," Jeff Teague, head of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said.

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27th Annual TBA Health Law Forum Videos Now Online

I am pleased to announce that the videos from the 27th Annual Health Law Forum are now available for view online. The TBA Health Law Section Executive Council worked hard to put together an informative and beneficial CLE program for section members. These videos provide an opportunity to explore various practice areas while also earning CLE credit.  

As a bonus, TBA Health Law Section members receive a section discount for these videos and all other CLE programs sponsored by the TBA Health Law Section throughout the year. 

To register today for one or all of the videos, please click on the links below: 

We look forward to continuing the good work of this section.

Denise Burke
Chair
TBA Health Law Section 

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Application of 'Death with Dignity' Law Circumstantial

The Tennessean examines the application of the state’s Right to Natural Death Act, stating the act was never intended to allow terminally ill patients to ask their physician for medication that would end their life. The act says that Tennesseans can “accept, refuse, withdraw from, or otherwise control decisions relating to the rendering of the person's own medical care, specifically including palliative care and the use of extraordinary procedures and treatment.” Attorney John Jay Hooker, whose death with dignity appeal was denied by the state’s Supreme Court, argues the state’s Constitution already allows residents to choose assisted suicide. "What's the difference between the doctor taking you off the essential ingredients to live and giving you some medicine that will speed up your death?" Hooker said. The Tennessean announced yesterday that Hooker has been named the 2015 Tennessean of the Year in recognition of his work fighting for more than 20 years for the constitutional rights of Tennesseans.

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Employers and Workers Deal with Changing Marijuana Laws

The American Bar Association highlights how employers and employees across the country are dealing with laws permitting marijuana use. Marijuana use is now permitted in 23 states and the District of Columbia, according to Governing magazine. “I think there’s mass confusion,” Chicago attorney Lori Ecker said. “The core problem is that marijuana continues to be a Schedule I drug according to federal drug law. That’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room."

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Healthcare Liability Reporting Requirements

Attorneys reporting health care liability claimants are required to provide specified information related to fee arrangements and TennCare payments to the Department of Commerce and Insurance. Per the Tennessee Health Care Liability Reporting Act, the department must submit an annual report summarizing information submitted by health care providers, facilities and attorneys by March 1. Reporting requirements and instructions can be found on the department’s website

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Federal Medicare Fraud Case Claims Total $1.8B

Attorneys in a federal Medicare case involving Cleveland, Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America met in Chattanooga Wednesday to argue motions before U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr., the Cleveland Daily Banner reports. The federal government claims Life Care created a scheme to maximize the number of days it billed Medicare and Tricare for alleged rehabilitation therapy for patients. The Chattanoogan reports the claims in the case total $1.8 billion. The next hearing is set for early January.

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Overdoses by Prescription Painkillers Increase in Tennessee

The Tennessean reports that deaths from prescription painkillers increased in 2014, despite efforts by state lawmakers over the last year to curb the problem. The new statistics on overdoses by prescription painkillers were released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Deaf Couple Sues Johnson City Hospital

Chris and Donna Cantrell, a deaf couple from Virginia, are suing Mountain States Health Alliance in Johnson City for allegedly failing to provide a qualified sign language interpreter while their 21-year-old daughter was dying of cancer. The federal suit, filed Wednesday by Disability Rights Tennessee and the National Association of the Deaf, said the hospital provided an unqualified interpreter on fewer than five occasions. "(Donna) Cantrell saw her daughter burst into tears but had no idea why she was crying. Because her daughter was too upset to explain, (she) did not learn that her daughter was dying until much later,” the lawsuit said. Read more from The Times Free Press.

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High Court Questions if States Can Gather Health Data

The Associated Press describes the U.S. Supreme Court as “skeptical” when determining if state officials have the power to require health insurers to turn over information detailing how much they pay for medical claims. The debate landed before the high court after Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. refused to share health data with Vermont officials; state officials argued the database would minimize health costs and increase competition. Vermont joins an estimated 18 states that currently gather health care claims. Liberty Mutual attorney Seth Waxman argues that federal law intended for self-funded insurance plans to operate without state regulations. Attorneys attending the annual TBA Academy and Admissions Ceremony were on hand for the session.

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Court Date Set for Franklin Man Accused of Fraud in Wellness Company

George David George, who is accused of devising a stock scheme and stealing millions of dollars from a Brentwood wellness company, is scheduled to appear in federal court on Jan. 12. The Franklin resident was charged with four felonies and is accused of collecting $2.25 million in investments from WellCity Foundation. "We don't subscribe to the notion that it was a Ponzi scheme," George's attorney Peter Strianse said. "The company provided real services, and was used by a lot of school districts and things like that. We insist it wasn't a facade." Read more from the Franklin Home Page.

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Report: Recovery Courts Yield Better Results

An evaluation of Tennessee’s recovery courts – including drug courts, mental health courts and veterans courts – shows that these settings succeed in putting defendants on the path to a more successful and rewarding future. According to the Chattanoogan, the study found that 81 percent of graduates became employed or saw improvement in their job status, 28 percent of homeless participants found their own place to live, and 14 percent completed a GED or secured an advance degree. 

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Cannabis CLE Courses Available Online

The online CLE sessions on legislation and insight into hemp, cannabis oils and medical marijuana in Tennessee are now available. Speakers include representatives from the Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee General Assembly. Each course is approved for one hour of CLE. 

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Administrative Med Mal Scheme Discussed

The Medical Malpractice Study Committee of the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee met today to consider SB507 by Sen. Jack Johnson (HB546 by Rep. Glen Casada), which moves medical malpractice claims out of the court system into a Patients’ Compensation System, relieves physicians of personal malpractice liability, and sets up an independent medical review panel of physicians and medical experts to review plaintiffs' claims. Presenting the legislation were representatives of the group Patients For Fair Compensation. Those in opposition and raising concerns included the Tennessee Medical Association and State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company. Legislators attending today’s meeting included Sen. Jack JohnsonSen. Mark GreenSen. Reginald TateRep. Glen CasadaRep. Dennis PowersRep. Joe PittsRep. David Shepard and Rep. Kelly Keisling. Check TBAImpact for updates on this issue.

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Haslam Wants to Strengthen Laws for Abortion Providers

In a letter issued last week to state lawmakers, Gov. Bill Haslam revealed, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Department of Health recently conducted unannounced inspections of the state’s four largest abortion providers to ensure they are in compliance with all laws and regulations. It is against Tennessee law to sell fetal tissues, but there are no laws in place requiring abortion providers to report on the disposal methods. In the letter, Haslam wrote that he intends to “prevent the abhorrent activities discussed in the Planned Parenthood videos from occurring in Tennessee.” The governor also wrote he would be proposing legislation in January "to strengthen accountability and transparency for surgery centers performing abortions."

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New Health Care Consulting Group Based in Nashville

Dickinson Wright PLLC partnered with two health care veterans to launch a new corporate health care venture in Nashville – DW Franklin Consulting Group – to serve health care clients around the country. The group will provide consulting services in governmental relations, turnaround consulting and risk analysis. “In partnering with Dickinson Wright, we bridge legal and regulatory compliance guidance with operational consultancy, which is very timely for today’s market — if not overdue,” Consulting Group leader Kerry Hart said.

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Court Will Hear Another Challenge to ACA Contraceptive Mandate

The Supreme Court accepted challenges from religious nonprofit groups to the Affordable Care Act and its contraception mandate, CNN reports. It will be the fourth time the Supreme Court has heard a challenge to the legislation. In 2014, the high court ruled that for-profit companies could refuse on religious grounds to cover contraceptives in their employee insurance plans.

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Supreme Court Modifies Summary Judgment Standard

The Tennessee Supreme Court returned to a summary judgment standard consistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in an opinion released today in a Memphis health care liability case. The Court’s ruling in Michelle Rye v. Women's Care Center of Memphis holds that when a party moves for summary judgment, its burden can be satisfied by either negating an essential element of the other party’s claim or by demonstrating that the other party’s evidence at the summary judgment stage is insufficient to establish that party’s claim or defense. Justice Gary R. Wade authored a dissenting opinion, concluding the summary judgment standard applied during the last two decades in Tennessee -- based on the 2008 judgment in Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co. -- is preferable to the federal standard.

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