Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 8:57 EDT

Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists Statement on Colorado Supreme Court Announcement

October 7, 2013

DENVER, Oct. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Today the Colorado Supreme Court announced it will accept an appeal of the lawsuit brought by the Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists seeking to overturn a 2010 decision by then-Governor Bill Ritter exempting Colorado’s rural hospitals from federal regulations requiring a physician to supervise a nurse anesthetist delivering anesthesia care. In the lawsuit, the two medical societies argued that the exemption was inconsistent with Colorado state law. A Colorado District Court ruled against the medical societies in 2011 and the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision in 2012.

“As the physician leaders in patient safety in the state, Colorado’s anesthesiologists are extremely gratified that the Supreme Court recognizes the need to review the earlier court decisions. Physicians have a critical and essential role to play in the delivery and supervision of anesthesia services,” said Paul D. Mongan, M.D., President of the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists (CSA). “Anesthesia care, while seemingly routine, is an extremely complex and potentially hazardous medical service. Had the Supreme Court allowed the lower court ruling to stand without review, it would have abandoned physician supervision of this vital component of medical care in Colorado.”

The Colorado Supreme Court will now address the legal issues raised by the medical societies. In their challenge to the Ritter decision, CSA and the Colorado Medical Society called attention to provisions of Colorado law that require physician supervision of advanced practice nurses while performing delegated medical functions, including the delivery of anesthesia care by a nurse anesthetist.

“The District Court ruling ignored Colorado’s Captain of the Ship doctrine and the Colorado Court of Appeals had to reverse its own prior rulings in order to arrive at its decision on this issue,” commented Randall M. Clark, M.D., Member, Board of Directors, American Society of Anesthesiologists. “Both lower courts also ignored the legislative history of the practice acts regarding delegated medical functions, including the official statements of the General Assembly’s own attorneys when asked to interpret these laws in 2009. That the appeal has been accepted indicates the Court’s willingness to review these legal facts. We are hopeful the Supreme Court’s final ruling will not allow the lower courts’ errors to stand. “

No timeline for the Supreme Court review and decision has been established. “While we await the final court decision, we call on Governor John Hickenlooper and his administration to work with Colorado’s nearly 700 anesthesiologists to improve medical care in all our state’s operating rooms and procedural areas, especially those in rural areas,” added Dr. Mongan. “The previous governor created two standards of care in Colorado, one for patients in the state’s urban hospitals and a lower one for everyone else. That action was terribly unwise and absolutely unnecessary. Today’s decision is the first step on a path to correct these errors. We hope the Governor will do more.”

SOURCE Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists

Source: PR Newswire