A panel of Nevada lawmakers passed bills Wednesday that would delay the release of DUI suspects and ensure that doctors who offer good-Samaritan services when delivering babies have legal protection.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass AB4, which would ensure immunity from lawsuits to obstetrician-gynecologists who volunteer to provide emergency delivery services.
Most doctors already have such protection under the state's existing good Samaritan law, but a loophole left doctors who provide emergency obstetric care vulnerable, said Assemblyman Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, who is also an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Dr. Florence Jameson, a former chief obstetrician-gynecologist at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, told the committee that she was sued after rushing to help out with a Caesarean section delivery.
After she was sued, her insurance costs increased, and the atmosphere at the hospital changed, said Jameson.
"In the end, whether you win or lose, this is an agonizing experience. and even the strongest of us feel we can't go on," said Jameson. "Now many of my colleagues feel differently about racing in for gratuitous care in emergencies."
Bill Bradley, a lawyer with the Nevada Justice Association, didn't oppose the bill, saying that when doctors provide truly free services, they deserve some protections.
"I was frankly under the impression that good-Samaritan status did extend to obstetricians," said Bradley, whose association represents trial lawyers. "Somehow obstetricians were segregated out."
The committee also passed AB8, a bill that prevents DUI suspects from being released until they are below a 0.04 percent blood-alcohol level, or a 12-hour hold in the case of a driver under the influence of drugs.
Originally, the bill called for a 12-hour hold for all offenders. That language was amended after law enforcement representatives complained that it would burden already overcrowded jails. The 0.04 limit is the legal standard for drivers of trucks and other commercial vehicles.
Sandy Heverly, who leads an anti-drunken driving advocacy group, spoke in favor of AB8, saying that under current law, some "privileged" DUI offenders can get out of jail within a few hours.