Las Vegas Sun

July 21, 2018

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New UNLV law professor aims to help students craft health care legislation


L.E. Baskow

UNLV Boyd School of Law Dean Daniel W. Hamilton, pictured at the commencement ceremony on May 12, 2017, recently welcomed health law scholar Dr. David Orentlicher to the faculty,

Dr. David Orentlicher

Dr. David Orentlicher

Frequently cited as one of the top health law scholars in the nation, Dr. David Orentlicher is joining the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law.

Orentlicher, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Law School, most recently taught at Indiana University’s law and medical schools and served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008. He was candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Indiana’s 8th Congressional District, in 2016, finishing behind the winner by only 64 votes in the Democratic primary in which 58,476 votes were cast.

He was director of the American Medical Association’s Division of Medical Ethics, where he drafted the AMA’s first patient’s bill of rights. He is a member of the American Law Institute and a former president of the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics.

The author and essayist is joining the faculty as the Cobeaga Law Firm Professor of Law and co-director of the UNLV Health Law Program. He said he soon hopes to be involved with UNLV’s School of Medicine, which opened last month.

“We are extremely delighted David Orentlicher is joining our law school faculty,” said Daniel W. Hamilton, dean of the William S. Boyd School of Law. “His remarkable scholarship and public service will benefit the school and community, and will contribute greatly to our Health Law Program.”

Orentlicher recently spoke with the Las Vegas Sun about his reasons for choosing Las Vegas and his goals. Here are excerpts of the conversation:


Over the years you get to know faculty at different law schools by attending presentations and conferences or just seeing their writing and doing research. I’ve gotten to know a number of the faculty at Boyd Law School, and I really liked the health group. (UNLV Health Law Program Director) Stacey Tovino and her colleagues have built a strong health law program, and the idea of working with them to continue to build was very attractive.

With the medical school opening and seeing that it’s a medical school that’s interested in building bridges with the law school, that’s also attractive. … Boyd is a young law school that’s growing and expanding, and open to new ideas and innovative approaches. That’s an exciting place to be.

How will your experience as a legislator inform your work in the classroom?

Since Boyd is the only law school in the state, it has a close relationship with government officials. One of the things we do as law professors is write about how we think the law can be improved. So having a good working relationship with lawmakers and being able to serve as a resource as they’re looking for ways to improve the law, that’s something that I could see having a real impact in terms of shaping law reform.

I’ll focus on that in one of the courses I’m teaching, on legislative advocacy and drafting for health law. The students’ project for this course will be to develop a legislative proposal, and I’ll work in advance with legislators to see what areas they would like to introduce proposals. Then we can work with them to draft something that they could introduce in the next session.

Will your students go as far as drafting bills?

Yes, my course will also teach students how to draft a bill. That would be part of the project, (and) to then work and advocate on behalf of what they came up with.

My sense as a former legislator is that you’re always glad to have people share their expertise to help you identify promising proposals. I think legislators and students will be receptive to the idea, and it will present them with good opportunities.

What emerging issues in health law are you focusing on as you make the transition to UNLV?

Health care reform. Both political sides recognize that more steps need to be taken. One of the nice things I could see this past legislative session in Nevada is the kinds of legislation that are being considered: the Medicaid-for-all bill, the death-with-dignity bill. A lot of things may not have been enacted yet, but they got a lot of traction. It’s really not common throughout the country to see that kind of interest in such important legislative measures.

When I was a legislator, it was hard for such bills to even get a hearing. Now they stand a good chance of getting adopted. That’s very attractive — thinking about how can you get the ideas you develop in your research seen in being adopted and implemented.

Does your research and instruction cover medical malpractice?

In the courses I teach, that doesn’t come up too much. There have been times where I did more of my research in the area, and what we’ve seen is a lot of the concerns. I don’t know Nevada, (but) looking at other states like Texas and Illinois, the problems haven’t been as serious as people thought, and a lot of the reforms people thought would be helpful haven’t been that effective. Sometimes, they’re even counterproductive. I was involved with that a number of years ago, but my focus now has been more on health care access and costs.

What are your next steps to getting involved in the medical school here?

One of the things I want to do is meet with the people at the medical school and hear in more detail about what’s going on and in which different ways I can partner with them.

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