Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Brian
B. Duff, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MILLER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a hearing in the circuit court of Cook County, Northwestern Memorial Hospital was found in civil contempt for its refusal to answer certain supplemental interrogatories propounded to it by the plaintiff, Rita M. Richter; a sanction was imposed. We allowed Northwestern's request for a direct appeal (94 Ill.2d R. 302(b)) and now affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
The action underlying this appeal is one for medical malpractice stemming from the diagnosis and removal of a tumor found in the plaintiff's head. The basis for the plaintiff's cause of action against defendant Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where the surgery was performed, concerns its supervision of the surgeon, Dr. Edir B. Siqueira, M.D., who also is a defendant. The complaint alleges that the operation resulted in the paralysis of certain cranial nerves. The remaining persons named as defendants Dr. Seymour Diamond, M.D., Diamond Headache Clinic, Ltd., and Dr. John H. Buehler, M.D. had treated the plaintiff earlier and allegedly failed to diagnose her condition.
The interrogatories at issue here inquire into the nature and extent of Dr. Siqueira's staff privileges at Northwestern. Two questions have been asked:
"1. State whether at any time between 1964 and September 12, 1980, Edir Siqueira, M.D.'s privileges as a member of the medical staff of the defendant hospital were restricted.
2. If the answer to the foregoing interrogatory is in the affirmative, state:
(a) the inclusive dates of any restrictions;
(b) the specific nature of the restrictions;
(c) the specific conditions imposed upon Dr. Siqueira's privileges by the restrictions."
Northwestern objected to answering both questions, relying on the statutory privilege that protects and prevents from disclosure certain information concerning internal hospital proceedings. Therefore, in response to each question, Northwestern replied:
"This defendant respectfully declines to answer this Interrogatory, in that the information sought in said Interrogatory is information which is absolutely privileged from discovery or other disclosure in this action at law, pursuant to the Illinois Medical Studies Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. (1983), Ch. 110, Secs. 8-2101, 8-2102, 8-2105.
No disrespect or contumacious conduct is intended or shown to the Court by this response made in good faith."
The circuit judge believed that the information requested by the plaintiff in her supplemental interrogatories was not within the protection afforded by the statutory privilege; therefore, the judge found ...