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December 12, 2019

District of Columbia Court Rules Malpractice Claims Against Surgeon Do Not Have to Be Removed From National Provider Database

United States District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta (D.D.C.) has ruled in favor of The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) after a surgeon requested DHHS remove malpractice actions reported about him from a National Practitioner database. Malpractice information was reported when five surgeries performed by the surgeon resulted in postoperative infections. The surgeon alleged the infections were the result of a conspiracy to discredit him, and resigned after an investigation was concluded by the hospital’s executive committee.  The surgeon then requested that DHHS remove the negative information from the database because he was no longer affiliated with the hospital. DHHS rejected the physician’s request, reasoning that the surgeon failed to "establish that the peer review was a sham." Judge Mehta ruled in favor of DHHS, reasoning that under HCQIA, health care entities must file a report with the DHHS whenever the entity "accepts the surrender of clinical privileges of a physician ... while the physician is under an investigation … relating to possible incompetence or improper professional conduct."  Judge Mehta noted that malpractice information could not be removed or altered, without proof of a gross procedural errors in the investigation, and the surgeon failed to meet the burden of proof.