The Peer Review Privilege in Litigation

Most people believe that the complexity and specialized knowledge involved in any given profession makes others in that profession better equipped to regulate their own members than any outside concern. In medicine in particular, peer review validates this belief. Peer review acts as the foundation of the medical community’s self-regulation process. Because the effectiveness of peer review relies on candor, the internal deliberations of medical peer review organizations receive special protections under the laws of many states.

In New Jersey, the records of utilization review committees established by hospitals and extended care facilities are protected from disclosure under New Jersey Statute section 2A:84A-22.8. Such committees cannot be compelled to disclose records in their possession except to the following entities:

  • The involved patient’s physician
  • The chief administrator of the facility
  • The medical executive committee of the facility
  • Government agents that request the records in performance of their duties
  • The patient’s insurance company

Both New York and Pennsylvania have similar provisions designed to allow peer review organizations to comment candidly upon the performance of medical professionals under their purview without fear that such commentary would subject that professional or the hospital as a whole to civil liability. These statutes create a more open atmosphere within the profession and allow hospitals to address performance issues without risking exposure.

By consulting with an experienced team of New Jersey health care attorneys, hospitals and other medical facilities can establish procedures for preserving both the confidentiality and effectiveness of peer review proceedings while still complying with all applicable laws and regulations.

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Posted in: Regulation