Doctor Fights State Law on Pain Clinics | Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 2, 2023
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Doctor Fights State Law on Pain Clinics

NASHVILLE (CN) - A physician and her patients claim a new Tennessee law on pain management clinics unconstitutionally restricts the currency doctors can accept, authorizes search of patients' and doctors' records without cause and arbitrarily exempts some medical professionals from the law.

Dr. Joyce Brown and three patients sued Gov. Bill Haslam in Davidson County Chancery Court.

They say the new law - Senate Bill 1258, House Bill 1040 - dictates that doctors at pain management clinics can accept payment only by check, credit card or money order - but not cash - if a patient is not insured.

"(P)atients that do not have insurance and may only use cash to pay for medically necessary treatment are, as a result of this new law, denied access to the care that they required," the complaint states.

The law also allows the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners to inspect pain management clinics' records without cause.

"This wide open authorization to search patients' medical records and physicians' 'documents' without showing any cause or justification violates the privacy protections of the state and federal constitutions and directly conflicts with the requirements of HIPAA federal laws," according to the complaint.

"The new law also violates federal law and directly conflicts with federal law in that it regulates the use, administration and prescription of specifically named federal controlled substances that are regulated by federal laws and thus is preempted by the requirements of federal law."

The law clearly is aimed at dispensation of painkillers.

It defines a pain management clinic as "'a privately owned [licensed] physician's practice or medical offices or an investor-owned clinic in which a physician provides pain management serves for which a majority of patients at the pain management clinic are issued a prescription for, or are dispensed, opioids, benzodiazapines, barbiturates, or carisoprodol, but not including suboxone, and treats a patient for more than ninety (90) days in a twelve-months period with these medications.'" (Brackets in complaint.)

Brown says: "This new law is arbitrary and capricious and lacks any basis for the physicians, nurses, and physician assistants who are exempted from the coverage and application of this law. Also, this new law violates federal privacy rights and conflicts with federal law."

The law capriciously exempts medical schools and their clinics, hospitals, hospice services, and nursing homes, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs want the law enjoined as unconstitutional, and attorney fees.

They are represented by Allen Woods.

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