Two California medical groups are appealing a recent court decision that upheld the state's ability to allow nurse anesthetists to administer anesthesia without physician oversight, HealthLeaders Media reports.
The California Medical Association and the California Society of Anesthesiologists said they will take their appeal to the California Supreme Court if necessary.
In June 2009, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) joined 15 other governors in opting out of a federal regulation requiring physicians to supervise nurse anesthetists during the treatment of Medicare beneficiaries. Schwarzenegger said he opted out to increase access to anesthesia services in rural and underserved areas.
In February 2010, CMA and CSA filed a lawsuit challenging the former governor's decision to opt out of the physician supervision requirement. However, a San Francisco Superior Court judge refused to block Schwarzenegger's decision and allowed nurse anesthetists to continue practicing independently.
Medical Groups' Argument
Long Do, an attorney representing CMA and CSA, said nurse anesthetists are "not trained and not capable of reacting to any number of problems that can come up when patients are given anesthesia."
Do noted that several other states that have opted out of the requirement have imposed strict limits on the types of procedures that nurse anesthetists can perform without supervision.
Nurse Anesthetists Respond
Phil Recht, attorney for the California Association of Nurse Anesthetists, said there have been no safety incidents in any states that have opted out of the physician supervision requirement.
He added that growing physician shortages mean that "expanding the role of nurses is a logical option and progression for our health care system" (Clark, HealthLeaders Media, 2/3).