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New Jersey High Court Finds Anesthesia Regulations Are Not Arbitrary


HLD, v. 33, n. 8 (August 2005)

New Jersey High Court Finds Anesthesia Regulations Are Not Arbitrary

The New Jersey high court found that regulations governing the administration of anesthesia were within the legal authority of the Board of Medical Examiners and were not arbitrary.

The New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners (Board) adopted regulations establishing that anesthesia may only be administered by physicians meeting certain standards or by Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) under the supervision of a physician meeting the standards. The New Jersey State Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NJANA) challenged the regulation and the appeals court stayed implementation of the regulations pending the outcome of the action.

The appeals court rejected NJANA's contention that the regulations were arbitrary and instead upheld them citing the Board's authority over the practice of medicine, the presumption of validity of administrative regulations, deference granted to administrative agency decisions, and the differences in training between physicians and CRNAs.

            The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed, relying on the appeals court's "thorough and thoughtful opinion." The high court added that the courts' job is only to assess the legality of a regulation and not its wisdom. The high court concluded that the Board had the legal authority to promulgate the rule and that there was a basis for its enactment.

            In so holding, the high court rejected NJANA's argument that the regulations were arbitrary because there was no evidence that they would enhance the safety of patients under anesthesia. The high court found instead a "wealth of testimony" given at hearings on the regulations that "supported the need for enhanced education and oversight." Accordingly, the high court affirmed the validity of the regulations.

            New Jersey Ass'n of Nurse Anesthetists v. New Jersey Bd. of Med. Exam'rs, No. A-92-04, 2005 WL 1521778 (N.J. June 29, 2005). To read the case, go to


            Health Lawyers thanks Lisa D. Taylor, of St. John & Wayne, L.L.C. in Newark, New Jersey, for sending us a copy of this opinion.



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