As a NY medical malpractice lawyer for more than 25 years, I am well aware of the “white-coat conspiracy of silence.”
This is an unwritten but well-known code of conduct that is routinely followed by doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, etc., that says:
“No matter what … never, ever, EVER … admit that one of your medical colleagues did anything wrong.”
A recent NY case against a Manhattan hospital turned that Code of Silence upside down when it ordered a doctor to turn over an email that he had written that was critical of the medical care provided to a patient. Needless to say, defense lawyers for the hospital who were claiming the medical care was OK screamed bloody murder and tried everything in their power to suppress this email so it would never see the light of day.
Here is a quick summary of the lawsuit, from a New York Law Journal article:
Rose Lowenthal, 89, died from post-operative developments two days after successful hip surgery at New York Downtown Hospital in December 2008.
Her surgeon, upset by her death, wrote an email to the chief of the hospital’s surgery department, criticizing Mrs. Lowenthal’s post-operative care.
Mrs. Lowenthal’s son filed suit in 2009 and the hospital refused to turn over the email, saying it was confidential because it was turned over to the hospital’s Quality Assurance Committee.
But a Manhattan Supreme Court justice rejected that argument, telling the hospital to turn over the email in the lawsuit because the hospital had not proved the email was written for the committee.
In an affidavit, the surgeon said he wrote the email on his own, and added that he was not invited to participate in the committee’s meeting or the morbidity and mortality meeting in Mrs. Lowenthal’s case.
The family’s lawyer, Scott Rubin of Levine and Grossman in Mineola, said the doctor’s unsolicited critical letter was the first of its kind he’d seen in more than 30 years of practice.
“Usually doctors don’t send letters excoriating departments or other doctors,” he said, adding with great understatement that the email “could be quite helpful to me.”
Why would the hospital’s lawyers be so upset by the disclosure of this email? Wouldn’t they want the truth to emerge? Wouldn’t they want to improve the medical care provided by the hospital?
Well, you would think so, but the reality of it is that these lawyers don’t want any doctor’s criticism of another doctor or medical provider to EVER see the light of day ….
I am glad the judge disagreed and ordered them to turn over the email!
Thanks for reading.
James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607) 733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and