CONCORD — New Hampshire doctors have won a battle with nurses who want to be called anesthesiologists, in an anonymous decision by the state Supreme Court.
In an order issued Tuesday, the court said it was divided and could not reach an opinion on whether nurses can legally use the term “nurse anesthesiologist” and “certified registered nurse anesthesiologist.”
The four justices who ruled on the case did not identify which side they were on.
“This is the issue on which the court is equally divided,” read an order issued on Tuesday. It spells out that two agree with the New Hampshire Association of Nurse Anesthetists, which said that nurses have a legal right to use the term.
Two others agreed with the Board of Medicine, the New Hampshire Medical Society and the New Hampshire Society of Anesthesiologists, who say that only medical doctors can use the term.
The tie means that the Board of Medicine prevails, the four justices wrote. They urged the Legislature to address the matter.
The order was signed by all four but did not specify how the judges voted.
“The court does not identify the votes of individual justices in an order that affirms by an evenly divided court,” said court spokesman Susan Warner in an email.
The four justices also said that a formal written opinion isn’t necessary but explained their ruling in the four-page order.
In December, the then-depleted, four-member Supreme Court heard the anesthesiologist case.
For more than a year, the highest New Hampshire court had only four members after a majority Democratic Executive Council rejected Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee for chief justice.
Two justices on the court — Gary Hicks and James Bassett — were appointed by former Democratic Gov. John Lynch. Two others — Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi and Patrick Donovan — are appointees of Sununu, a Republican.
Last week, former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald joined the Supreme Court as chief justice. He was Sununu’s original nominee.
Warner said the Supreme Court, now at full strength, can’t issue a new order in the case. That’s because when MacDonald was attorney general, his office supported doctors in the case, meaning he could not rule on the matter now.