What Are Peer Review Hearings?
At every stage of the disciplinary process, the accused physician is at a tremendous disadvantage. The disciplinary hearing process is like being on trial for malpractice with one's own colleagues acting as witnesses, prosecutors, and judges. The medical staff committee selects the jury panel members and hearing officer (subject to the physician's challenges for bias, which are often overruled) and is represented by counsel. There is frequently a denial of the assistance of counsel in the initial “informal” hearing. In some states, witnesses in a peer review hearing may knowingly give false testimony, enjoying absolute immunity from civil suits for slander or malicious injury. The hospital and medical staff members are also immune from suit under federal law, unless it is proven that they acted in bad faith when taking the peer review action.
A negative outcome for the physician in a medical staff peer review can be devastating. By law in most states (including California), the hospital must report disciplinary actions to both the state Medical Board and the National Practitioner Data Bank, a nationwide database accessible to hospitals and managed care organizations. The state Medical Board may commence its own investigation, finding the physician an easy target because unfavorable evidence has already been compiled in the medical staff hearing. Although the Medical Board may decide not to prosecute, it will do nothing to aid the physician to clear his or her name, regain staff privileges or obtain redress for the economic, professional, and emotional injuries which have been sustained. The physician's reputation and career may be ruined.
It is crucial for both physicians and healthcare defense attorneys to have a clear understanding of the peer review process and its consequences. Although hospitals and facilities have by-laws which detail their peer review process, this process is also structured by State and Federal (HCQIA) laws that provide physicians due process rights and protection. Experienced healthcare attorneys know that hospitals and facilities do not always follow the proper peer review process and sometimes conduct peer review hearings pursuant to their own by-laws, which can result in unfair processes that leave the physician at a disadvantage.
Are You Facing a Peer Review Hearing? Contact an Experienced California Healthcare Law Attorney Today!
If you are a physician subject to a peer review or clinical privileges hearing, you should contact an experienced healthcare law attorney to help guide you through the peer review process to ensure you are being afforded due process and build the best possible defense to mitigate the damage to your professional career and reputation.
Fill out our online form or call 1-800-LAW-MDJD (1-800-529-6353) for a FREE and confidential phone consultation to speak to a health law attorney about peer review hearings, your legal rights and options, and the best way to proceed.
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