Supreme Court reverses appeals court: hospital is not required to disclose to the judge objective facts contained in incident report
When Dorothy Krusac died of injuries she suffered when she rolled off an operating table at Covenant Medical Center, her widower sued the hospital. Three people were present when she fell off the table, but all three hospital employees denied that she fell hard enough to suffer any injury. The family didn't trust the employees' account of the incident, and asked the trial judge to privately review the Incident Report prepared by one of the employees, so that any "objective facts" in the report would be known to both sides. The judge initially declined to review or disclose the report, but later, relying on a ruling by the Court of Appeals in another case, decided to review the report privately "in chambers." He then ordered the hospital to produce the first page of the "peer review" Incident Report, which contained only factual material.
The hospital appealed immediately, delaying the trial, but the Court of Appeals ruled that it must comply with the ordered disclosure, based upon the earlier decision in the other case. The hospital then appealed to Michigan's Supreme Court, seeking that Court's decision in advance of trial. The high court granted the hospital leave to appeal immediately, and this week it reversed the Court of Appeals holding. The Supreme Court held that the statute creating Peer Review committees to review hospital incidents grants their reports and all data they consider a level of confidentiality which trumps the statute requiring that all material, objective facts be recorded in a patient's hospital chart.
The family asked the Court to review the two statutory requirements together, in balance, or in pari materia, but the high court declined the invitation. The Justices held that a patient's right to know the objective facts of what happened to him or her in the hospital (and similarly the rights of the family of a dead patient) was not a matter of justice for the courts: the Court left it to the Legislature if hospitals are to be held to any obligation to provide a factual accounting to the patient.