ABA Health eSource
 October 2006 Volume 3 Number 2

Chair's Column: "Reaching Across the Pond"--the HLS International Initiatives
by Paul R. DeMuro, Latham & Watkins LLP, San Francisco, CA

Paul R. DeMuroLast Bar year, your Health Law Section (HLS) leadership implemented several strategic international initiatives in recognition of the increasingly international nature of healthcare legal practices, and the desire to increase our membership from those outside the U.S.. Interestingly, this year's president of the ABA, Karen Mathis, is also reaching out to lawyers outside the U.S. as one of her initiatives. As a result, the HLS specific goals for the year were in confluence with those of the new President.

As part of our initiatives, we reached out to our colleagues at the International Bar Association (IBA), based in the U.K. The IBA has a healthcare committee, known as the Medicine and the Law Committee (MLC). The Chair of the Medicine and the Law Committee is Domenic Crolla, a partner in the Ottawa, Canada office of the Gowlings law firm. He and I began to coordinate on a number of efforts. In fact, at the end of the ABA Section Officers Conference (SOC), and before the International Bar Association meetings in Chicago this past September, your HLS leadership met with some of the leadership of the IBA MLC to discuss collaboration for the future, including possibly a healthcare legal exchange in London in 2007 and joint scholarly legal papers.

The IBA MLC sponsored a program entitled "From Farm to Fork--Food Safety," at the IBA meetings in Chicago later that week. Domenic and Judy Munson, the Secretary of the IBA MLC and a public health legal consultant, had the foresight to plan such a program long before the spinach scare. How clairvoyant could they be. I was asked to present on the International Health Regulations (IHRs) of the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the context of food safety. Given the spinach situation, there may have been more press in the room than attendees, and as is consistent with the IBA, there were international attendees. We were able to get the word out about the ABA HLS.

Domenic kindly agreed to be a keynote luncheon presenter on international telemedicine issues at our Washington Summit this October. He also is considering having the MLC working with us on behalf of the IBA on our proposed healthcare legal exchange in Berlin at the end of May 2007, in conjunction with our spring Council meeting. In my view, Germany is experiencing some of the most significant developments and changes from an international healthcare legal perspective. The country's hospital system went to a form of prospective payment a few years ago, and is now in the process of privatizing parts of Germany's hospital and skilled nursing facility industries is proceeding. The country is also host to many multinational healthcare and start up healthcare companies. In fact, Germany's great strides in this area have resulted in our having a session at our very popular Emerging Issues conference in February, 2007 in Orlando on certain international issues, including healthcare privatization in Germany.

The IBA MLC has its spring meeting in Eastern Europe in 2007. Its leadership is exploring the possibility of a joint program in London on international healthcare legal issues and would like to do it in conjunction with the ABA HLS. Such a program is only in its infancy, but we are committed to adding to the healthcare legal literature and to our membership.

We also reached out to the Healthcare Committee of the International Law Section of the ABA. Jonathan Todres, a professor at NYU, has expressed a willingness to collaborate with the ABA HLS in a number of respects.

Now some have asked, why do we not just stay at home, and how can we add value to our members by reaching out across the pond. Let me see: Could it be having nighthawk radiology services performed in countries outside the U.S. during the day for our hospital patients at night here, cross-border clinical trials, a greater likelihood of stem cell research being conducted outside of the U.S., multinational healthcare companies becoming more of our clients, health plans seeking to incentivize beneficiaries to seek healthcare services outside the country where they might be less expensive, and learning from Germany's move to a system more like ours or ...I could go on and on.

Others also have asked how these international initiatives might fit within the context of our diversity initiatives. If we can attract new members from the international arena, not only are we likely to learn many useful things for our practices, but chances are some of these folks will be from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Thoughts, concerns, observations .... My email address is paul.demuro@lw.com ... next month Jill Pena and I discuss what specifically are we doing for our members …

My best regards and thanks for reading!

Paul R. DeMuro