The Utah Supreme Court has upheld a jury verdict in favor of a physician who sued Intermountain Health Care Inc. and Ogden's McKay-Dee Hospital for revoking his right to perform some heart surgeries.
In a split decision, the court affirmed a 2nd District Court jury's special verdict and $150,000 award to J. Richard Rees, who said the hospital's revocation of his right to perform elective cardiac surgery violated his right to due process.Rees had performed emergency and elective cardiac surgeries at McKay-Dee since 1971.
In 1980, the hospital imposed a temporary moratorium on heart surgery, and Rees agreed to get further training at another hospital. He later returned to McKay-Dee and resumed surgery.
Two years later, the ad hoc committee again became concerned with Rees' complication and mortality rates. Statistics showed that between 1976 and 1981, 19 of 63 patients died, for a mortality rate of 30.16 percent.
After interim meetings with other hospital panels, Rees met with hospital administrators on April 27, 1983, and remained silent when they advised him he could continue to perform emergency cardiac surgery and procedures involving the great vessels of the chest chest, but not elective heart surgery.
Rees later filed suit. McKay-Dee claimed immunity because of the peer review process, and under the doctrine of equitable estoppel, and also on the basis of statute. The motions were denied, and the jury found in Rees's favor at trial in 1989.
Chief Justice Gordon Hall noted that Rees remained silent during the 1983 meeting, but wrote that the administrators' assumptions that he had acquiesced in the decision were mistaken.