Doctors make mistakes—preventable medical mistakes—that kill or seriously injure patients. The best way to reduce these preventable errors is through a medical peer review process typically referred to as a "morbidity and mortality conference." However, over the past twenty years, federal and state courts, state legislatures, and state voters have effectively gutted the morbidity and mortality conference (M&M) as a remedial and preventative tool, resulting in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths every year. Doctors need our help restoring the effectiveness of M&Ms. Congress has created the means to do so; now, all the courts need do is use it. Otherwise, what has been happening over the last two decades will continue—physicians will fear the M&M, will either not participate in M&Ms or not participate fully, medical errors will not be thoroughly investigated and corrected, and the same preventable medical mistakes will continue to occur because physicians are scared if they admit during an M&M that they committed an error then, in a subsequent medical malpractice lawsuit, their admission will be used against them to prove negligence and liability.
Part I of this essay summarizes the extent of the problem—many call it a crisis—of preventable deaths plaguing U.S. hospitals. Part II explains peer review, both in the context of physician credentialing/hiring and M&Ms, and the legal protections afforded under the provisions of immunity, confidentiality, and privilege. Part III discusses how federal and state court decisions, state legislative enactments, and voter initiatives have weakened existing protections for peer review, especially regarding M&Ms. Part IV describes the PSQIA and how it can—and should—be the solution to preventable hospital deaths. Part V concludes with a summation of the argument that courts employ the PSQIA privilege to protect M&Ms, and that physicians and hospitals do their part by fulfilling the requirements of the PSQIA such that they may invoke the privilege therein contained.
Alan G. Williams,
Save Thousands of Lives Every Year: Resuscitate the Peer Review Privilege,
29 J.L. & Health
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/jlh/vol29/iss2/7