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Rodas v. Swedish American Health System Corp.

August 20, 2007

GLORIA RODAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF ANDREA G. RODAS, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SWEDISH AMERICAN HEALTH SYSTEM CORP., D/B/A SWEDISH AMERICAN HOSPITAL, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

On June 25, 2007, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Compel which is the subject of this order. At issue is whether documents responsive to Plaintiff's Requests to Produce are protected by the Medical Studies Act, 735 ILCS 5/8-2101. Having reviewed the parties' briefs, Defendant's privilege log, and the relevant case law on the subject, the court finds that the Medical Studies Act applies so as to protect a portion of the material identified in Defendant's privilege log.

II. Background

This is a medical negligence/wrongful death action relating to the delivery of Plaintiff's child on August 2, 2001. The suit was originally brought in the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, Illinois, and removed to the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a) due to the presence of the United States as a defendant.

Plaintiff issued a Request to Produce which sought documentation prepared prior to and after any morbidity and mortality conferences were conducted concerning Plaintiff's labor and delivery. Defendant has claimed that material responsive to Plaintiff's requests are privileged pursuant to the Medical Studies Act. The parties' efforts to resolve this dispute under Local Rule 37.2 proved unsuccessful, leading to the motion to compel.

III. Privilege Under the Medical Studies Act

The Act provides: All information . . . of a health care practitioner's professional competence, or other data of . . . committees of licensed or accredited hospitals or their medical staffs, including Patient Care Audit Committees, Medical Care Evaluation Committees, Utilization Review Committees, Credential Committees and Executive Committees, or their designees (but not the medical records pertaining to the patient), used in the course of internal quality control or of medical study for the purpose of reducing morbidity or mortality, or for improving patient care or increasing organ and tissue donation, shall be privileged, strictly confidential and shall be used only for medical research, increasing organ and tissue donation, the evaluation and improvement of quality care, or granting, limiting or revoking staff privileges or agreements for services . . . .

735 ILCS 5/8-2101. The Act further provides that:

Such information, records, reports, statements, notes, memoranda, or other data, shall not be admissible as evidence, nor discoverable in any action of any kind in any court or before any tribunal, board, agency or person. The disclosure of any such information or data, whether proper, or improper, shall not waive or have any effect upon its confidentiality, nondiscoverability, or nonadmissibility. 735 ILCS 5/8-2102. The idea that "information . . . or other data of . . . committees of licensed or accredited hospitals or their medical staffs . . . used in the course of internal quality control . . . shall be privileged," must be read in light of the wealth of Illinois case law which narrows the otherwise broad scope of the Act. Id.

The Illinois Supreme Court noted that the legislative debate and case law addressing the Act suggests that a hospital committee "must be involved in the peer-review process before the privilege will attach." Roach v. Springfield Clinic, 157 Ill.2d 29, 40, 191 Ill. Dec. 1, 6, 623 N.E.2d 246, 251 (1993). The Illinois Appellate courts have taken up this suggestion, holding that the Act is limited to protecting "the mechanisms of the peer-review process--i.e., information initiated, created, prepared or generated by a peer-review committee." Berry v. West Suburban Hospital Medical Center, 338 Ill.App.3d 49, 55, 272 Ill.Dec. 771, 776, 788 N.E.2d 75, 80 (Ill.App.Ct. 2003), citing Chicago Trust Co. v. Cook County Hospital, 298 Ill.App.3d 396, 402, 232 Ill.Dec. 550, 698 N.E.2d 641 (Ill.App.Ct. 1998) (reports prepared shortly after an incident which were used by an oversight committee to review the incident were not privileged where the reports were not requested by-and thus did not belong to-a committee engaged in the peer-review process); Grandi v. Shah, 261 Ill.App.3d 551, 556, 199 Ill.Dec. 98, 633 N.E.2d 894 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994) (even assuming that a hospital administrator's conversations with a doctor and nurse to investigate a patient complaint were part of the hospital's internal review process, those conversations were not protected because the administrator was not acting on behalf of any peer-review committee.).

The purpose of the Medical Studies Act is to "ensure that members of the medical profession will effectively engage in self-evaluation of their peers in the interest of advancing the quality of health care." Webb v. Mount Sinai Hosp. and Medical Center of Chicago, 347 Ill.App.3d 817, 824 (Ill.App.Ct. 2004); see also Roach, 157 Ill.2d at 40 ("The statute is premised on the belief that, absent the statutory peer-review privilege, physicians would be reluctant to sit on peer-review committees and engage in frank evaluations of their colleagues."). The Act was never intended to shield hospitals from potential liability, nor does it protect all information used for internal quality control purposes. Webb, 347 Ill.App.3d at 825. Documents generated before a peer-review process begins, or after it ends, are not protected. Webb, 347 Ill.App.3d at 825.

With the scope and purpose of the Medical Studies Act in mind, the court will determine whether the documents identified in Defendant's privilege ...


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