Alliance for Patient Safety

                            All that is necessary for the triumph of evil...
                                                                ... is for good men to do nothing.

                                                                                                   Edmund Burke

Retaliation Against Russell Adkins, M.D.

    Read Court of Appeals Decision -

    In every state medical peer review records are privileged and strictly confidential as a matter of state law. They cannot be introduced in court, or even obtained in discovery. In Adkins, the court of appeals held that this privilege does not apply in federal court. That is not a groundbreaking result; the Fourth and Seventh Circuits had previously refused to apply the peer review privilege. But the facts of the case, as alleged by the plaintiff doctor and briefly summarized by the court, are intriguing.

    Dr. Russell Adkins, urologist, was a staff physician with privileges at Houston Medical Center. According to Adkins, an African American, he was singled out for particular scrutiny under the peer review and disciplinary process at HMC. When HMC did not find evidence of substandard care that would justify getting rid of Adkins, the hospital proceeded to manufacture some. The doctor claims HMC actually sabotaged the care of his patient. The court states:

    Specifically, he alleges that nurses falsified reports related to S.K.’s condition, refused to contact him about her care, and contravened his orders relating to her care, resulting in her pain and discomfort. He claims that the staff at HMC incorrectly informed S.K. that he was out of town, and deliberately withheld information about her status from him, which ensured that he was unavailable to assist her.

    HMC then used Adkins’ obviously substandard care of S.K. as grounds for suspending, and ultimately terminating him.

    In his civil rights lawsuit, Adkins sought discovery of the records relating to the peer review of other doctors at HMC, to demonstrate that he was singled out for discriminatory treatment because of his race. The court of appeals held HMC cannot use peer review privilege to shield these records from discovery, noting that the judge can take steps to prevent their disclosure to the broader public.

    The defendant filed a Petition for Certiorari on Oct 22, 2007, seeking Supreme Court review.