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Court Rulings Could Squelch Reports of Errors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 30, 2012

The two lower court decisions being appealed are Norton Hospitals Inc. v. Cunningham and Phillip Tibbs, M.D., et al v. Bunnell.

Brezosky says that the authors of the Patient Safety Act had Kentucky and Florida in mind because those states were the only two in the country with no peer review protections against error or near miss information becoming public during litigation. Kentucky courts and politics have always represented "a pro plaintiff environment." he says.

Lexington, KY attorney Wesley Butler, an attorney with Barnet, Benvenuti & Butler PLLC who helped write the hospital associations' appeal briefs and represents one of the plaintiffs, Norton Hospitals, says that peer review protection is essential for patient safety.

"If you have a group of physicians whose primary job is to conduct peer review and have open and honest conversations about one of their colleagues, the physicians in that room are likely to engage in that endeavor differently if they know that the words that they use could be used against them in court.

"Ultimately what you have is professionals, such as nurse practitioners, who would second guess themselves about whether they really wanted to participate in reporting information, or engaging in dialogue because of a fear of being sued or subpoenaed against colleagues or even themselves."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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