An Ogden hospital has asked the Utah Supreme Court to reverse a lower court's decision awarding $150,000 to a surgeon whose right to perform elective open-heart surgery was revoked by the hospital.
Attorneys for Dr. J. Richard Rees, of Ogden, however, contend the appeal by McKay-Dee Hospital is unfounded.The court has taken the matter under advisement.
Defense attorney Ronald E. Nehring asked the court to reaffirm a February 1989 verdict by a 2nd District Court jury, which awarded the judgment to Rees after deciding his rights were unfairly revoked.
Rees, who held staff privileges at McKay-Dee since 1971, filed a lawsuit in September 1983, contending the hospital's action had damaged his reputation, caused mental anguish and forced him to lose wages.
He asked that his privilege to perform the heart surgery be reinstated and that he be awarded up to $1 million in lost compensation.
Rees had been given an ultimatum in February 1983 to either voluntarily relinquish the privilege or have the hospital suspend it.
McKay-Dee employees testified at his trial they were concerned about an excessively large number of patients who died either during surgery performed by Rees or shortly thereafter.
Twenty of 63 patients on whom Rees operated between 1976 and 1981 died on the operating table or within a month after surgery.
In briefs filed with the Supreme Court, attorney Charles W. Dahlquist, representing McKay-Dee Hospital on behalf of Intermountain Health Care, said the verdict should be reversed or the court should take some remedial action.
"Evidence clearly shows that the plaintiff's privileges were in jeopardy and that he was given a choice between due process and voluntary relinquishment, and he chose the latter," Dahlquist said.
He said Rees was informed of his options during an April 27, 1983, meeting but never requested a peer review or due-process hearing.
Rees also did not object to the hospital's understanding that he had voluntarily relinquished his right to perform elective open-heart surgery, Dahlquist said.
He added that hospital bylaws and statutes made McKay-Dee officials immune from civil suits in actions taken against doctors that are intended to foster quality medical care.
Nehring argued there was "compelling evidence" to support the fact his client did not relinquish his privileges voluntarily.
"Rather, he was stripped of his privileges based on impressions and assumptions," Nehring said.
"This is a case of a small man against a big hospital . . . I have great confidence in the facts of the case and confidence in the fact that the law has been properly ascertained," he said.