Colorado’s Professional Review Act (CPRA) is up for reauthorization this legislative session and the proponents and opponents of the reauthorization bill are promoting their positions. According to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, professional review committees review and evaluate the competence, professional conduct, or the quality and appropriateness of patient care. The committee generally keeps its records and outcomes highly confidential.
A website “supported by a coalition of health care companies, boards, association and practices across the state of Colorado” contends: “For the past 43 years, Colorado health care professionals have relied on the Colorado Professional Review Act, known as “peer review,” to improve the quality of health care in our state. Maintaining this supportive environment for professional, constructive review promotes a culture of safety because all health care professionals feel empowered to speak up. The Act helps ensure Colorado can continue to attract and retain quality health care professionals, a key strategy in preserving access to care and keeping costs in check. Without the protections in the Act, medical professionals would be unlikely to participate in medical reviews, reporting would decline and learning would be stifled.”
An organization whose stated mission is “To protect the rights of the individual, advance trial advocacy skills, and promote high ethical standards and professionalism in the ongoing effort to preserve and improve the American system of jurisprudence” states on its website: “Unfortunately, medical professionals abuse this statute. Peer review provides a legal framework for doctors and hospitals to hide misconduct, preventable medical errors, and other hazards. It is like Boeing who can carelessly ‘self-certify’ the safety of its planes. It leads to unsafe aircraft such as its 737 MAX 8 that killed hundreds of innocent people.”
The pro-consumer organization cites the Colorado medical malpractice case involving Isaiah Bird, a 10-year-old boy who became ill and struggled to breathe two days before Christmas. At the advice of his pediatrician, Isaiah’s parents rushed him to the emergency room at Swedish Medical Center. The ER doctor did not properly evaluate Isaiah, prescribed a flu medication and carelessly discharged him.
On the way home from the hospital while stopping to pick up the prescription, Isaiah’s airway closed completely and he went into respiratory arrest. EMTs and police were unable to revive him, and he suffered a massive anoxic brain injury before he could be brought back to Swedish Medical Center. On Christmas Eve, Isaiah’s parents made the horrible decision to remove their brain-dead child from life support.
Isaiah’s parents filed a Colorado wrongful death lawsuit. During this time, the family’s attorney received an anonymous call revealing that the ER doctor allegedly had a history of cocaine and other illicit drug use. The ER doctor allegedly had also been investigated for smoking marijuana on the job. The hospital and doctor’s lawyers concealed this vital information under the guise of the “peer review privilege.”
In addition, the ER doctor allegedly had been reprimanded and investigated for failing to properly care for patients but managed to maintain employment at the hospital and her medical license.
The pro-consumer organization stated, “Stories like this are all too common in Colorado, where caps on damages and protective statutes like peer review encourage bad medicine, endangering all Coloradans lives. Now is the time to oppose peer review unless major changes are made. Our top priority must be a system that is safe, accountable and transparent for patients, and provides justice to those devastated by medical negligence.”
An opinion published on April 21, 2019 in The Colorado Sun, authored by the Chief Medical Officer for Denver Health and the Chief Government and Community Relations Officer for Denver Health, stated: “The “Peer Review” Act was established by the state legislature in 1976 to ensure transparency, safe practice and a continuous environment of improvement in health care.”
How does Colorado’s Professional Review Act “ensure transparency” when it precludes the victims of medical malpractice in Colorado from finding out what caused their injuries? How can we trust our health care providers to be honest with us if they will only admit their mistakes and errors that harm their patients if they are assured by the Act that their statements regarding their substandard care will be kept secret and will not be disclosed to those they injure?
If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of medical negligence in Colorado, you should promptly find a Colorado medical malpractice attorney who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a Colorado medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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