NJ Supreme Court: Hospitals can keep internal error reviews confidential

Hospitals' internal review reports written after adverse events can remain confidential, according to a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling on Monday. The 2004 Patient Safety Act ensures the confidentiality of healthcare workers in order for them to be more forthcoming and candid when an error is made. Under the decision, the Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, New Jersey can keep secret a memo that was written after a roundtable discussion following events that led to allegations in a medical malpractice case that a newborn suffered brain damage in 2007, due to negligent care during and after her birth. In the 4-3 majority ruling, the court said "[t]he Legislature included in the Patient Safety Act a provision creating an absolute privilege. It reasoned that healthcare professionals and other facility staff are more likely to effectively assess adverse events in a confidential setting, in which an employee need not fear recrimination for disclosing his or her own medical error, or that of a colleague." Ruling (.pdf)