Colorado high court ruling prohibits lawsuits until peer review complete

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A recent ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court protects the peer review process but may make it difficult for physicians to get relief during the proceedings when they believe their due process rights have been abused.

A recent ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court protects the peer review process but may make it difficult for physicians to get relief during the proceedings when they believe their due process rights have been abused. In Jimmie R. Crow, MD, v. Penrose-St. Francis Healthcare System, DBA Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, the justices unanimously decided that a surgical oncologist could not sue for alleged wrongful treatment until the peer review process is complete.

The case before the court involved Jimmie Crow, MD, whose privileges were suspended in 2004 for allegedly delaying emergency treatment to a patient who died two weeks later. Crow admits no wrongdoing and, to date, has not received an initial hearing with the hospital's peer review committee. In 2006, he filed a lawsuit against the hospital for "allegedly failing to follow hospital bylaws that require a fair and timely review," reported American Medical News (11/19/2007).

The judges ruled in favor of the hospital, noting that the peer review process would be jeopardized if a lawsuit were allowed to interfere. In essence, the court will not automatically step into the middle of ongoing peer review proceedings, but physicians can still file lawsuits after the process is complete.

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