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Hospitals face this issue on a regular basis: whether documents used for internal quality control review sessions are privileged.  In this particular medical malpractice lawsuit alleging wrongful death, the hospital asserted privilege, under the Medical Studies Act, to certain internal quality control documents requested in discovery.

Overview: The decedent, while under general anesthesia, allegedly suffered a drop in oxygen levels and cardiac arrest during a surgical procedure. Decedent was taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) and subsequently passed away 15 days later. Months later, plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, the anesthesiologist during the decedent’s surgery and other defendants. Plaintiff alleged various acts of negligence during the surgery. Plaintiff sent the hospital requests for production of documents.  In response, the hospital filed a privilege log and then later an amended privilege log.  After “in camera” inspection, the court overruled claim of privilege on 17 documents and sustained claim of privilege on seven documents.

Impact: The hospital met its burden of proof to establish applicability of privilege to documents in question. Documents which served an integral function in peer review information-gathering and decision-making process, and documents disclosed confidentially to Joint Commission, are protected by privilege under the Act.

Johnson & Bell recently addressed a very similar issue for one of our clients.  To view that result, please click here.