PA Supreme Court Decision Limits Peer Review Privilege

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently passed a 4-3 decision that limits the scope of Pennsylvania’s Peer Review Protection Act (PRPA). The high court maintained that in order to qualify as a peer review and be eligible for protection, the body on whose behalf the review is being conducted is required to be a professional health care provider.

The PRPA, which was enacted in 1974, is a Pennsylvania statute that looks to motivate health care providers, hospitals and practice groups into policing themselves via a peer review when or if something goes wrong. In addition, the act makes it so the disclosure of certain information that is obtained or shared during a peer review is prohibited. This was put in place to make it so doctors and other medical professionals would feel comfortable sharing openly with their peers, without having to deal with the repercussions.

The problem with that is the fact that the protection act negatively influences patients who are victims of medical malpractice since it makes internal records and documents from being disclosed in a malpractice case. The PRPA protects healthcare providers and organizations from liability by keeping patient safety reports, incident reports and quality assurance forms under lock and key, instead of making them publicly available — or at the least, available to a patient in the midst of a medical malpractice suit who has suffered from the actions of a medical professional.

Reginelli v. Boggs Decision Changes the Game

The recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a woman who was seen and discharged from a hospital’s emergency room with an undiagnosed heart condition, which ultimately resulted in a heart attack. The physician who discharged the patient was a member of the hospital’s medical staff and was also employed by an emergency medicine physician practice group that provides the hospital with administrative services for its emergency department.

During the lawsuit, a medical malpractice plaintiff requested the discovery of the physician’s performance review file, which was done by a supervising physician who was also a member of the same hospital’s medical staff and the same physician practice group.

When discovery of the performance review file, which was maintained by the physician practice group, was requested, the defendants looked to utilize the peer review privilege to prevent discovery.

In the end, the Supreme Court decided that the privilege did not extend to the performance review file(s) and that they needed to be produced. The high court excluded physician practice groups from their strict interpretation of entities that can claim the peer review privilege. The Supreme Court also seemingly adopted a limited view on what constitutes a review committee, suggesting it must be a formal, hospital-established peer review committee.

Again, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision puts in motion a more serious consideration of the scope and depth of peer review protection when it comes to healthcare providers and organizations. It also means patients involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit may end up with more of a fighting chance since important documents will be available during discovery, instead of under lock and key.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys in PA Can Help

The court ruling changes the healthcare landscape and also legal proceedings involving medical malpractice. It is something experienced attorneys will be sure to utilize when it comes to helping their clients.

In Pennsylvania, the Marrone Law Firm, LLC is one such group that is experienced and ready to help with your medical malpractice needs. If you or a loved one suffered at the hands of a medical profession, then you need their help.

The Philadelphia law firm handles all sorts of medical malpractice, from prescription negligence and nursing home negligence to errors in surgery and OB/GYN malpractice. They understand how costly a misdiagnosis or medical error can be financially and emotionally, and want to make sure you get compensated for your losses.

Call 866-732-6700 to set up a free initial consultation and begin discussing your medical malpractice case today.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.