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What every Patient should Know - It is time to do away with Hospital Secrecy

Posted by attorney James Girards

Can you imagine a nation in which manufacturers who are found to have sold products that maim and kill are protected by secrecy? That the consumer cannot even ask the question "what happened inside your company that resulted in your selling a product that causes death in a large percentage of its users?" Or, "what did you know about this product before you sold it to the public?" Can you imagine an auto manufacturer that produced and sold a car that would burst into flames when hit in the rear bumper and when sued the company could claim its design, development, and production of the car was a secret - and the courts would protect them?

Think about that for a moment.

That's is exactly what happens in every hospital in the USA. MIstakes are made, incompetent physicians hurt patients, some of them die needlessly - up to 100,000 each year according to some US Government Studies - and every hospital in the nation is protected by a privilege of secrecy. It is called the "Peer Review Privilege" and its time of usefulness has passed. If you ask the hospital where your loved one died "what did you know about this doctor before you let him on staff?" you will likely receive a response that simply says "that is privileged, we will not tell you." And, that response will be upheld by the judge.

According to the National Quality Forum (The Role of the National Quality Forum (NQF) in the Quest for Transparency in U.S. Hospitals' Patient Safety Performance by Lance L. Roberts, MS; Marcia M. Ward, PhD; and Thomas C. Evans, MD),"[t]he first problem is framed today as a "transparency" problem. Lacking standardized measures and publicly reported performance data, payers, the public, and policy makers are unable to determine how well physicians, care teams, and hospitals operate. This hinders their ability to select high-value providers. Likewise, providers themselves may not know how well, or how poorly, they provide health care services when compared with their peers, which stunts their ability to proactively improve the value of health care."

Because it is so obvious our medical system is ill - the time has come to make our hospitals safer - just like all other major industries. Dropping the cloak of secrecy in industry has made all products sold in this country many times safer than before. The same will happen in the US hospital system if each state will repeal its laws of hospital secrecy.

Will you take a moment today to write to your legislature and ask that patient safety be enhanced by repeal of hospital secrecy laws?

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