Jury sides with heart surgeon in $6.4M defamation lawsuit against Memorial Hermann: 5 things to know

A Texas jury found Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System guilty of gaming its own peer-review process for financial gain, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.

Here are five things to know about the lawsuit and the verdict.

1. The jury found Memorial Hermann guilty of defamation and awarded Miguel Gomez, MD, with $6.4 million in damages, according to the report. Health system officials told the Houston Chronicle they believe the state district judge will reduce the award.

2. Dr. Gomez sued the health system five years ago, alleging it misused the peer review process and falsified data to harm his practice after he tried to move it to another hospital, according to the report. Dr. Gomez was a top cardiovascular surgeon who had admitting privileges at Memorial Hermann, but after he decided to move his practice to Houston Methodist West, he alleged Memorial Hermann sought to damage his reputation to retain his patients, according to the report.

3. The jury found Memorial Hermann made false statements about Dr. Gomez's competence and surgical mortality rates, according to the report. The jury also found Memorial Hermann further defamed the surgeon by sharing manipulated peer review data with referring cardiologists. However, the jury did clear the health system of allegations that it stifled the Houston healthcare market in its actions against Dr. Gomez, according to the report.

4. The verdict is extremely unusual. Typically, defamation cases are solved outside of courts, especially because it is difficult for physicians to prove the peer review process was used in a detrimental way, as is necessary in Texas for physicians to access the otherwise confidential data, according to the report.

5. Memorial Hermann said it is still evaluating an appeal, according to the report. In a statement to the newspaper, Memorial Hermann affirmed its physician review process is in place to improve patient safety.

Read the full story here.


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