Texas doctors could reject New Mexico patients

Texas doctors could reject New Mexico patients

Some Texas doctors are threatening to stop seeing patients from New Mexico. Their hesitation comes after a surgery done at a Texas hospital led to a malpractice lawsuit in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Supreme Court is hearing an appeal on the case, and Texas doctors are waiting on edge.

"It just seems tremendously unfair to subject us to the double jeopardy from Texas and New Mexico when we only work in Texas," said Amarillo Doctor William Biggs.

Doctor Biggs says Amarillo sees a high volume of New Mexico patients. His practice alone saw over 2,600 New Mexico patients last year.

"Primarily from eastern New Mexico who want to access physicians in west Texas for the specialties that they don't have there," said Biggs.

People are worried a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling could have Texas turning its neighbors away over fears of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

A New Mexico woman filed a malpractice lawsuit against a Lubbock doctor following a weight loss surgery, but filed the lawsuit in New Mexico where the laws are more generous for patients who sue.

"That decision was appealed to an Appeals Court there in New Mexico. The Appeals Court upheld the lower courts decision," said Amarillo risk consultant Cliff Craig. "Now, it is being appealed in the New Mexico Supreme Court."

Texas doctors say the case should go through the Texas courts system since that's were the woman was treated.

"If they have to defend it in the state of New Mexico and if New Mexico's laws are more generous, it would have a negative impact on either the cost of or the availability of medical malpractice insurance for Texas physicians," said Craig.

If the court decides to let this case play out in New Mexico, some Texas doctors are saying that this could make them more hesitant to accept out of state patients. Something Doctor Biggs doesn't want to do.

"That would be really ashamed. We have a lot of great patients from New Mexico," said Biggs. "We love working with their family doctors back home and we don't want to lose them."

Biggs says if the Supreme Court upholds their decision, it could be detrimental for New Mexico.

"New Mexico has a shortage of doctors," said Biggs. "If you shut out Amarillo, Lubbock, and El Paso with those vital sub-specialties, then that's going to deny needed care to an enormous number of people in eastern New Mexico."

A court date has not been set, and it could take a year or longer for a final determination.