Neurosurgeons, health system did not ruin former colleague's career, appellate court rules

Alan Condon -   Print  |

Gregory Scherr, MD, on June 3 lost in his attempt to revive a lawsuit over alleged defamatory statements against six neurosurgeons and St. Paul, Minn.-based HealthEast Care System, Bloomberg Law reports.

Six things to know:

1. Dr. Sherr alleged that "professional jealousy and anticompetitive motives" drove the surgeons to make defamatory comments against him in the HealthEast peer review process, according to court documents.

2. The surgeon said HealthEast operating room staff told him that the surgeons made comments suggesting that he put patients at risk by operating too quickly, making them lose excessive amounts of blood during surgery and having high infection rates, according to the report.

3. The alleged comments came after Dr. Sherr left his post as neurosurgery chair at St. Cloud (Minn.) Hospital for Midwest Spine and Brain Institute in Stillwater, Minn., in 2015. Dr. Sherr argued that this occurred because he was a competitive threat to the hospitals' in-house neurosurgeons.

4. Dr. Sherr argued that these "baseless complaints" resulted in the HealthEast committee suspending his privileges for violating HealthEast bylaws, according to court documents. As a result of the suspension, Dr. Sherr alleged that his reputation and career were ruined and that he had to resign from Midwest Spine and Brain Institute and relocate to Florida.

5. The district court concluded that federal and state peer review immunity cover the review process at HealthEast, and the surgeons were not liable for defamation or tortious interference for anything that occurred during Dr. Sherr's peer review.

6. The court also rejected some of the alleged defamatory statements made outside the peer review process, as Dr. Sherr did not allege them in his amended complaint, and other alleged defamatory statements relied on hearsay.

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