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Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer

What is a mortality and morbidity conference at the hospital?

 

A:

A mortality and morbidity conference is part of the hospital's quality assurance protocol. Every hospital has created a committee to review bad outcomes and complications in an attempt to create quality control at the hospital. They apparently do it in order to review bad outcomes, complications and unintended events that have occurred to patients while undergoing care and treatment at their hospital.

As an attorney who represents injured victims from improper medical care by a doctor or hospital, this type of meeting is something every attorney who represents injured victims would want to go to.

Imagine being in a room where doctors are freely discussing complications, bad outcomes, improper medical care, accidents and more that occurred at the hospital. During these discussions they try and get to the root cause of how these problems occurred and then discuss ways to prevent them from happening in the future.

When an injured victim brings a lawsuit in New York seeking compensation for the violations of the standards of basic medical care by a doctor or hospital, their particular case may or may not discussed at one of these mortality and morbidity conferences. Some hospitals have multiple mortality and morbidity groups and categorize them by specialty. Others have one global committee for the entire hospital.

Even though we, as the attorney, are permitted to obtain the patient's hospital records, the mortality and morbidity conferences are privileged discussions which means that as the attorney who represents an injured victim, we are unable to gain any information about what is discussed during these meetings. 

The rationale for this is that these healthcare providers are trying to do their level best to understand what happened and then to create a way to make sure these types of events do not happen again. The thinking in New York State is that if attorneys who represent injured victims were allowed access to these meetings it would inhibit and prevent the health care professionals from openly and freely discussing the events that occurred and finding ways to improve the health care provided in the hospital.

When I question a doctor at a deposition during a lawsuit, I permitted to learn whether or not a particular patient's case was discussed during a mortality and morbidity conference. I'm permitted to learn who attended such a conference. I'm permitted to learn whether anyone in attendance was taking notes.

However, that typically ends my questioning.

I am not permitted to ask what was discussed, what findings of fact they came to or what conclusions they reached or even what corrective course of action they were going to take. That is all deemed to be privileged information and the defense attorney will, in all instances, direct the witness not to answer any further questions including the details or substance of what was actually discussed during these meetings.

If one of the people in attendance created their own notes or memoranda, there are some very limited instances where I might be able to obtain those notes.