Court Decision Gives Medical Negligence Lawyers Tool to Find the Truth

Washington state supreme court

Victims of medical malpractice are not aware of the secrecy most hospitals use to cover up medical mistakes.  Statutory laws allow doctors and hospitals to hold secret meetings behind closed doors and hide malpractice from patients.  Doctors, nurses, or the hospital’s risk manager can apologize to the patient, but never tell them the whole truth.  The filing of a lawsuit for medical practice is usually the only way a patient or family of someone who suffered a wrongful death from malpractice can find answers.

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court issued an 8-1 decision in Lowy v. Peacehealth –  No. 85697-4, which gives plaintiff medical negligence lawyers another tool to find the truth.  In Lowy, the court examined the scope of the Peer Review and Quality Improvement statutory privilege which allows hospitals a statutory immunity from the discovery of secret records and meetings under RCW 70.41.200.  Quotations from the opinion show that the court gave careful consideration regarding the hospital’s ability to hide the truth behind medical mistakes from patients:

“Our legislature did not intend quality improvement committees to institutionalize a conspiracy of silence or to create unnecessary barriers to a patient’s quest for the truth.”

“Our rules of discovery are grounded upon the constitutional guaranty that justice will be administered openly.”

“Our legislature did not intend that defendants could conceal discoverable documents not created specifically for a quality improvement committee and not privileged by moving electronic search and other identifying tools under a quality improvement committee’s umbrella of secrecy.”

A link to the full opinion is:

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.disp&filename=856974MAJ.

This opinion is the first of its kind in Washington and nationwide.  While the court did not stop the ability of hospitals and doctors to hide documents and data from their secret meetings, it did limit the scope of the secrecy.  This opinion will be helpful to patients in a quest for the truth.