A new measure in Kentucky, Senate Bill 18, could cause patients suing their health care providers for medical malpractice to lose access to hospital peer reviews of the procedures that allegedly caused injury.
Senate Bill 18 would amend KRS 311.377 to add medical malpractice actions to the bill that currently provides privilege to actions arising out of review of credentials or retrospective review and evaluation, and actions by an applicant for or grantee of staff privileges to materials that are confidential and privileged and not subject to discovery, subpoena, or introduction into evidence, in any civil action in any court.
A hospital peer review is process where health care providers that are affiliated with a particular hospital, evaluate the quality of care provided by their fellow health care providers and identify opportunities to improve care. Health care providers whose patients have had an unexpected medical outcome usually present their patients’ cases to a peer review committee who then determine whether the health care provider should have acted differently during treatment.
To this point, injured patients located in Kentucky have been permitted to access hospital peer reviews when bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit in order to bolster their case. This was first allowed based upon a 1998 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling which held that hospital peer review privilege should not extend to medical malpractice actions.
In that case, the Supreme Court reviewed KRS 311.377(2) and determined that statutes are not to be given a strict or literal reading where to do so would lead to an unreasonable result. The Supreme Court found that an absolute privilege of hospital peer reviews would tilt the legal playing field against the plaintiffs who have not waived any rights pursuant to the statute, which would then create an advantage for the defendants. The Court felt, this type of advantage is an unintended benefit of the privilege and that, that type of result is clearly unreasonable.
Under the new measure, hospital peer reviews would be considered to be privileged information. The idea behind the privilege is to promote complete and candid peer review by ensuring the confidentiality of the process. The feeling is that through the process, health care providers can learn from each other without fearing that a critique of a colleague could end up as crucial evidence against that colleague in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Senator Ralph Alvarado stated, “Put simply, (peer review) is the mechanism by which doctors who belong to the same hospital police themselves. They need the ability to be brutally honest about each others’ skills in an anonymous setting.”
Opponents of the bill feel that the peer reviews shine light on the truth of what caused a patient’s injury and that patients have a right to that information.
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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