Opinion

Verdict a victory against sham review

LETTER — Posted Oct. 25, 2004

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Regarding "Defamation award could chill peer review" (Article, Oct. 4): The recent win for ethical medicine, the case of Lawrence Poliner, MD, vs. Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and three physicians, should indeed "send shivers down the spines" of unethical physicians and unethical hospital CEOs everywhere, who utilize sham peer review as a tool to silence physician whistle-blowers, eliminate competition or rid themselves of physicians they dislike.

Hospital CEOs and physicians who set out to destroy another physician's career, under the pretext of peer review, deserve to be punished severely. Physicians who conduct or participate in sham peer review also should have their medical society memberships terminated for their egregious violation of medical ethics.

The increasing prevalence of sham peer review damages not just the targeted physician victims, but also the integrity of the entire peer review process itself. Sham peer review is also doing great harm to quality of care and patient safety, as many physicians are afraid to point out deficiencies, problems or safety issues in the hospital setting, lest they risk retaliation by the hospital and the end of their careers.

Ethical physicians must support good-faith peer review, must condemn the practice of sham peer review and must hold the shammers fully accountable for their professional misconduct.

Eliminating the absolute immunity provision of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act, which has been used as a shield to protect the shammers, is absolutely essential for accountability and the return to ethical medicine.

Lawrence R. Huntoon, MD, PhD, Jamestown, N.Y.

Editor's note: Dr. Huntoon is editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons and chair of the Sham Peer Review Committee of the Assn. of American Physicians and Surgeons Inc.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/10/25/edlt1025.htm.

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