Medicolegal Issues

6 Supreme Court decisions that affected ObGyns in 2015

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The final opinion creates incentives for some prosecutors to make abuse victims unavailable in order to allow their testimony by hearsay. Aside from the legal technicalities, the likelihood of wrongful convictions under such a system must be considered for the long run.

Other major 2015 Supreme Court decisions
- The Constitution requires states to recognize same-sex marriages and also accept such marriages performed in other states.1 (The American Medical Association joined an amicus brief in this case.)
- The Court turned down the appeal of several inmates who had received lethal injection death sentences. They challenged the mix of drugs that Oklahoma planned to use to execute them.2
- In 2 cases justices went out of the way to raise questions about the constitutionality of the death penalty. This may suggest that the Court will take up this issue in the near future.2,3
- Federal housing discrimination laws were expanded to cases in which there is “disparate impact” discrimination.4
- The Court narrowed prosecution for “threatening” statements in social network/Internet communications by holding that negligence in the communication is not sufficient for conviction under federal law.5
- The Court held that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act with its power plant emission regulations because it failed to do a proper cost-benefit analysis.6

1. Obergefell et al v Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health et al, No. 14–556 (2015). Accessed December 14, 2015.
2. Glossip et al v Gross et al, No. 14–7955 (2015). Accessed December 14, 2015.
3. Davis, Acting Worden v Ayala, No. 13–1428 (2015). Accessed December 14, 2015.
4. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs et al v Inclusive Communities Project, Inc et al, No. 13–1371 (2015). Accessed December 14, 2015.
5. Elonis v United States, No. 13–983 (2015). Accessed December 14, 2015.
6. Michigan et al v Environmental Protection Agency et al, No. 14–46 (2015). Accessed December 14, 2015.

What’s coming in 2016
This term of the Supreme Court is a reminder of how important the decisions of the Court are to the work of physicians and ObGyns in particular. This trend is continuing—the Court already has, for the next term, accepted cases regarding abortion, contraception, and health care delivery. It will, therefore, be worthwhile to follow the developments at the nation’s highest court.

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