Physician Sued for Defamation after Telling Patient to File Malpractice Suit against Colleague
August 7, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care
A California court of appeals dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought against a physician by his aggrieved professional colleague, finding that all of the statements made by the defendant physician were “protected by law. " Among other statements, the defendant physician had suggested that one of his patients pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against his colleague, according to the court's opinion (Talwar v. Yusuf, 2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3868). The physicians, identified fictitiously as Dr. B and Dr. G in a July 10, 2017, article about the case in Monthly Prescribing Reference, were surgeons who practiced at the same facility. Dr. B. performed surgery to create an arteriovenous fistula in a patient's arm, and the patient later developed postsurgical complications. When the patient approached Dr. G. to discuss his symptoms, including numbness and tingling in his arm, Dr. G. concluded that the fistula was too deep to be accessible for dialysis. Dr. G. informed the patient of his conclusion, and then performed surgery on the patient, but he was unable to use the existing fistula; instead, he had to create a second fistula in the same arm. Dr. G. discussed the issue with Dr. B., who allegedly became defensive and said that the original fistula was adequate. Dr. G. disagreed, believing that his colleague did not correctly treat the patient. Dr. G. told the patient that because he believed the original fistula was improperly created, he would ask his facility's quality team to investigate the matter. He also said that the patient should consider filing a complaint with the state medical board and consulting with an attorney about a medical malpractice lawsuit. The facility's internal peer review committee opened an investigation, which found that while Dr. B. had performed the initial surgery within the standard of care, he “failed to meet the standard of care by choosing the third best available location for creating the fistula." The facility canceled Dr. B.'s contract and revoked his surgical privileges. The state medical board concluded that Dr. B. failed to keep thorough notes about his treatment of the patient, but it ultimately closed its investigation without further action.