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Peer-Review Bill

September 02, 1988

The account of the battles surrounding SB 2565, the California Medical Assn.-sponsored physician peer-review bill, left out a few points Times readers should know about ("Bill on Doctor Discipline Opens Medical Wound," Part I, Aug. 25).

The bill would prevent hospitals from removing a doctor from a medical staff for purely economic reasons, using quality of care as an excuse. That's not an unfounded fear. Hospitals make fewer dollars, for instance, from a family physician who insists on admitting "too many" Medi-Cal patients. A highly qualified doctor in Northern California with a large Medi-Cal practice recently found himself unable to get staff privileges. SB 2565 would help prevent economic coercion, to the benefit of patients--especially poor patients. It would help protect physicians who might face retaliation because they champion their patients' rights.

By creating uniformity and a recognized, fair set of rules for both hospitals and physicians, the legislation will reduce the fear of liability for doctors who serve on the peer-review panel and judge the work of their fellow physicians. That means more doctors will be willing to serve on such panels--and it gives them more freedom to act against practitioners who truly represent a threat to patients. That means tougher, but fair, reviews of physicians whose medical decisions are called into question.

Nowhere in the argument made by the opponents will you learn that a federal law will go into effect unless California opts out with its own peer-review law. California law is much more responsive to Californians than is federal law--a point that should be kept in mind.

This bill is nothing more than an attempt to make sure that both sides--the accused doctor and the doctors who sit in judgment--are treated fairly.

In all the hoopla about the groups opposing and supporting the bill, we should not lose sight of the fact that the public benefits in a very real way if SB 2565 is made law.

LAURENS P. WHITE, MD

President

California Medical Assn.

San Francisco

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