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Iowa Court Okays Phlebotomists to Draw Blood for DUIs

The Case that Got Thrown Out
Jerel Green was injured in a single-vehicle accident and was transported to a hospital for treatment.  The circumstances of the crash led the police to believe the accident was alcohol-related, so a deputy went to the hospital to investigate further. The deputy spoke with Green, concluded he was coherent, and read an implied consent advisory to him.  Green consented to the withdrawal of his blood for testing and Kathleen Tinley, a phlebotomist employed by the hospital for over three years, withdrew Green's blood sample.  The sample revealed a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.
Green was charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The District Court Judge ruled that Tinley, as a phlebotomist, was not one of the individuals approved by Iowa Code to do a blood withdrawal for DUIs, and the case was dismissed. Under the Iowa Code, only a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, or medical technologist may do the blood withdrawal for alcohol testing.
Decision Overturned by Higher Court
The Iowa Supreme Court overturned the District Court Judge"s ruling, stating that a phlebotomist should be considered a medical technologist for this legal matter. The Justice stated in his opinion, "We find phlebotomists as a group may fall within the term medical technologist as it is used in Iowa Code section 321J.11. The case is reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.-
The Justice went on to explain that phlebotomists are now recognized as key personnel who are well prepared to assume additional roles to meet healthcare needs. There is no state licensing for medical technologists, nor do statutory educational or training standards exist. 
"The test to determine whether a person holding himself out as a medical technologist is a medical technologist within the meaning of [Iowa Code section 321J.11] is whether a satisfactory showing can be made that he has sufficient training in the withdrawal of blood to accomplish the legislative objectives of protecting the individual"s health, guarding against infection and pain, and assuring the accuracy of the test, all in accordance with accepted medical standards. The concern is with the competence of the person withdrawing the blood rather than with an occupational label he may have been awarded by a private association.-
Phlebotomists know exactly what their job is, but in this case, it took several judges to determine the definition of "phlebotomist.- For case details, visit

By Neil Whitehall
Get Phlebotomy Jobs, Contributing Editor

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