American Journal of Law & Medicine

Disciplinary actions: report to National Practitioner Data Bank constitutes defamation - Wheeler v. Methodist Hosp.

The Texas Court of Appeals for the First District held that each time the National Practitioner Data Bank republishes an adverse action report filed by an employer constitutes a new cause of action for a claim of defamation, thereby creating a new limitations period.(2) The court also held that the broad privilege against discovery of the peer review process under both Federal and State law does not prohibit: (1) discovery directed to a non-medical peer review committee ("MPRC") source for documents within the public domain that the MPRC has reviewed or considered; (2) discovery directed specifically to a MPRC concerning recommendations or final decisions that could result in censure, suspension, restriction, limitation, revocation or denial of membership or privileges in a health-care entity; (3) communications between a physician and a MPRC; and (4) documents that an employer or a MPRC has shared with individuals not protected by the statutory privilege.(3)

In March 1995, Dr. James M. Wheeler ("Wheeler"), a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, performed a successful outpatient procedure, after which the patient requested to go home. When Wheeler attempted to contact physicians for consultation in accordance with a practice improvement plan ("PIP"), his calls were not returned. Rather than wait for a return phone call, Wheeler allowed the patient to go home. Shortly thereafter, on March 17, 1995, the acting chief of staff and another physician from Methodist Hospital contacted Wheeler by telephone. …

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