Trenton, New Jersey; December 13, 2023: A federal lawsuit was filed today to challenge limits on telehealth that prevent patients—including sick children—from accessing specialty cancer care that their local doctors have no expertise to treat.

“The government cannot use licensing requirements to prevent children (and adults) from accessing specialty medical care that their local doctors neither have the expertise in, nor the resources to provide,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Caleb Trotter. “Limiting access to medical specialists benefits no one. It is wrong for the government to place undue burdens on both out-of-state physicians and in-state patients that far outweigh any benefits.”

Dr. Shannon MacDonald, a radiation oncologist at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital who specializes in rare pediatric cancers and is licensed in multiple states but not New Jersey, found herself barred from providing crucial telehealth consultations and follow-ups to patients, as she had done during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the state’s COVID-era temporary license program ended earlier this year. New Jersey families grappling with rare cancers are now forced to choose between inconvenient and expensive out-of-state trips or leaving their trusted specialty oncologist. In addition to fines, New Jersey imposes criminal penalties on doctors who continue to care for their patients via telehealth.

Prior to COVID, New Jersey regulations mandated out-of-state physicians engaging in telehealth with patients in New Jersey must be licensed there. The state suspended this requirement during the pandemic but reinstated it after the pandemic. This severely restricted the ability of doctors like Dr. MacDonald to continue caring for patients in New Jersey. Patients are now forced to travel out of state to her office to determine if she can provide them with expert care or find a local doctor that lacks her unique expertise.

Restrictive telehealth laws are on the books in nearly every state. Now parents of children battling rare cancers and other life-threatening diseases are fighting back with doctors from Mass General and the University of Pittsburgh to remove these barriers and allow the freedom to access the best specialty care.

The New Jersey case is Shannon MacDonald, M.D., et al. v. Otto Sabando.

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About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 17 wins of 19 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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