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Murray v. UNMC Physicians

Nebraska Supreme Court
806 N.W.2d 118 (2011)


Facts

Mary Murray suffered from pulmonary arterial hypertension, a chronic medical condition in which the blood vessels in the lungs constrict causing heart failure. The condition could be treated using Flolan therapy, a medication administered by a pump that relaxed the blood vessels. However, the therapy cost approximately $100,000 per year and was required to be administered constantly. It was life threatening for the patient if treatment was interrupted, but extremely expensive to administer for the remainder of an individual’s life. Mary’s physician, Austin Thompson, M.D., had prepared to treat her with Flolan therapy pending results of several tests and insurance approval, but Mary died before treatment could begin. Mary’s husband, Robert (plaintiff), individually and as executor of Mary’s estate, filed suit against Nebraska Medical Center, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, UNMC Physicians (UNMC), Dr. Thompson and others (defendants) claiming the defendants caused Mary’s death by negligently failing to administer the Flolan therapy. However, UNMC was the only defendant remaining at the time of trial. At trial, the parties disputed whether UNMC had breached the requisite standard of care. At the close of his case, Robert moved for a directed verdict on the standard of care. He argued that an insurance company cannot dictate what doctors may do. UNMC claimed that an ongoing financial source is something a physician must consider in determining a course of treatment for a patient. Robert’s motion was overruled. The jury found for UNMC. Robert filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court granted. UNMC appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Gerrard, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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