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SHM Brief Cited in Supreme Court Decision on Abortion Restrictions


In their landmark decision in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case that challenged abortion restrictions put into place in the state of Texas, U.S. Supreme Court justices specifically cited an amicus brief submitted by the Society of Hospital Medicine.

Getting cited is a pretty big deal! It means that justices not only used what SHM wrote to inform their opinion, but also shows they gave it particular weight.

On June 27 in a 5-3 vote, the Court struck down both the admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements of the Texas law, finding that neither of these requirements provided sufficient medical benefits to justify the burdens imposed.

The brief, submitted by SHM in conjunction with the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists last January, provided the Court with material to clarify obsolete impressions about how inpatient care currently transpires, how provider-to-provider transitions occur, and how admitting privileges work in real life.

Texas partially justified their law on views about site-to-site patient handoffs as unsafe and not in keeping with current care standards. However, as geographically based providers (hospitalists) know, care no longer arises in that manner and handoffs are not just the norm, but customary and safe.

SHM, however, did not weigh in on Constitutional questions, and did not take any stance on moral or ethical matters. SHM’s membership has diverse beliefs, and a position on this topic would be inappropriate.

In part, the SHM brief noted that:

“Admitting privileges are appropriate for physicians who regularly admit patients. But requiring physicians who specialize in outpatient procedures with low incidence of post-procedure complications, whether that specialty is podiatry or gynecology, to maintain privileges serves no medical purpose, is inconsistent with modern medicine, and is unnecessary to ensure continuity of care. Having a hospitalist serve as the admitting or attending physician does not deprive patients of quality inpatient or outpatient services.”

SHM’s amicus brief provides procedural clarification and informs the Court of how hospitalists function, but SHM emphasizes that it has not taken an ideological or ethical stance regarding the issue. SHM applauds the diversity of its membership, in background and in belief.

Regardless of procedure, modern medicine now has a presence in multiple locations with varied disciplines coordinating care. Hospitalists and other providers know handoffs are safe with outcomes equivalent to, or exceeding, prior norms. SHM felt duty-bound to correct the record for future reference and the purpose of precedent.

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