Justice Department Says State Should Let School Staff Administer Insulin
The Obama administration recently weighed in on a California Supreme Court case, saying school employees should be allowed to give insulin shots to students with diabetes if no nurses are available, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In 2005, the American Diabetes Association filed a lawsuit taking issue with state regulations on insulin shots. The state law, as interpreted by schools, allows only children with diabetes, their parents, an individual designated by their parents or a licensed health care provider to administer insulin.
A group of parents participating in the lawsuit said a shortage of nurses made the state law impractical. Last year, half of California's school districts had no nurses and 7,000 schools lacked nurses on an average day, according to state data.
In two lower court decisions on the case, judges ruled that California law permits only licensed physicians and nurses to administer medication like insulin, except in emergency situations.
Justice Department Weighs In
In a recent filing with the state's top court, lawyers from the federal Department of Justice said that limiting insulin administration only to licensed professionals would deny care to thousands of children and violate their rights under federal disability laws.
DOJ said that prohibiting trained non-nursing staff from giving insulin shots "creates a serious obstacle to the ability of California schools to comply with their federal obligations" to provide education to children with disabilities.
However, the American Nurses Association argues that permitting non-nursing staff to administer insulin could harm children and discourage schools from hiring additional nurses.
Maureen Cones, attorney for ANA, said that if the state's top court agrees with DOJ, then "students with disabilities will lose their right to receive health care from the licensed professionals who are best qualified to provide it."
The court has scheduled a final round of written arguments in June, and a hearing on the case could take place by the end of this year.
The state is allowing non-nursing school employees to give insulin shots while the case is pending (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.