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Setting The Standard In Personal Injury Law

Congress passes law, courts cope with new malpractice rule

People who live in Chicago may be able to worry less when they head to the hospital. Changes in legislation over the past decade may be creating improvements in patient safety, giving those that are in the hospital decreased concerns over the possibility of a misdiagnosis or a medication error.

In 2005, the U.S. Congress passed the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act which allowed patient safety organizations to be created. These new organizations were given the ability to perform activities geared toward the improvement of patient safety. One of these actions is the PSO report. These reports often discuss medical issues that have gone wrong in individual cases, but it seems that the PSQI Act does not allow for them to be used in a malpractice suit.

Despite this confidentiality agreement, many judges are maintaining that facts about a case are discoverable and therefore useable in a malpractice case. If an event or occurrence is a known fact, then it can be used by a plaintiff to sway the court. Other pieces of information may be evaluative which means that it was uncovered by physicians during the peer review process.

Peer review is currently used to identify physicians that have made mistakes, so that the errors can be better understood by the community as a whole. This allows for an increase in safety and it usually involves risk-management lessons and other procedures that help physicians become better at what they do: care for the sick and injured.

Some hospital administrators believe that the peer review process can create information that could be used in malpractice suits. While this is not often the case, it has happened in the past and it will likely happen in the future since the PSQI Act has language that states it does not limit the discovery of information in a civil, criminal or administrative case.

Source: Medscape, "Will Patient Safety Initiatives Harm Physicians?," Brian S. Kern, March 9, 2012

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