The Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 was meant to protect the public from incompetent physicians, but contains a huge loophole - one which has been used to harm good physicians ever since it was passed.
Basically, physicians initiating a peer review were intended to be immune from liability, as long as they acted in "good faith." But not acting in good faith doesn't remove the immunity. That means there is effectively no legal recourse for a physician caught in a malicious peer review.
The perpetrators chant the magic words "peer review" and all actions stemming from it are protected. Judges won't override "medical experts" for fear of being wrong. Even if a victim-physician can get court time (rare), they must pay for their own defense up front. And the hospital can always afford more "expert witnesses" than the victim. Eventually the victim is broken, financially and in spirit.
And for anyone who believes that medical experts couldn't possibly be used this way, ask any attorney. There is an entire industry built around "experts for hire." The hospital only needs to look righteous enough to cast doubt. The burden is on the victim to prove beyond a shadow of doubt.
Doesn't sound like the principles upon which this country was founded? Exactly. A serial killer will have more rights than a physician. It is outrageous, and communities across the country are being deprived of good physicians because the public doesn't realize what is happening.
Until "health care reform" addresses bad faith peer review, the system will punish innovative physicians who put their patients first. Many who have written of this are branded as delusional in order to discredit them. The pattern is well-described in "How To Destroy Your Competitor (Or Someone You Don't Like) With Medical Peer Review" (William K. Reid, MD).
But mainstream, well-regarded sources are also now including articles on the subject, such as:
- The Cost of Courage: How The Tables Turn On Doctors by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (a series over several weeks)
- Speak No Evil? When Physicians Share Concerns, Their Words Arenít Always Welcome by the AMA Voice, a publication of the American Medical Association
- Editorial Response to "What Is Sham Peer Review?" by Medscape, part of WebMD Health Professional Network