QUESTION: We recently asked a physician to meet with our Leadership Council (a small group of Medical Staff leaders) to provide input regarding a concern about his behavior. He says he’ll be happy to attend the meeting, but only if accompanied by his attorney. Our policies do not address this issue – do we have to let the attorney attend the meeting?
ANSWER: No. The meeting is not a hearing. It’s simply an opportunity for physicians to talk with one another in a collegial manner. There’s no legal obligation to permit an attorney to attend, and the presence of an attorney would likely make the process less effective by making it seem more confrontational than it needs to be.
It’s much easier to address this situation when the applicable policy includes language such as the following:
- To promote the collegial and educational objectives of this Policy, all discussions and meetings with a Practitioner shall generally involve only the Practitioner and the appropriate Medical Staff Leaders and Hospital personnel. No counsel representing the Practitioner, Medical Staff or Hospital shall attend any of these meetings.
Of course, the physician may consult an attorney prior to the meeting (and the physician shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so). The attorney can even accompany the physician to the hospital and wait in an appropriate location, if the physician insists. But there’s no obligation to allow the attorney to accompany the physician during the meeting.
For more ideas on handling difficult peer review issues, check out our Peer Review Clinic.