Grants immunity from liability to organizations which establish physician committees the purpose of which is to confront and refer to treatment physicians who are thought to be suffering from addiction or mental illness.
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A7267
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public health law, in relation to
granting immunity from liability to organizations which establish physi-
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
To make technical amendments to a statutorily-recognized program that
ensures physicians who have faced substance abuse or mental health
issues can receive appropriate treatment and referral.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section one of the bill re-numbers specific provisions of the Public
Health law Section 230(11)(g) that authorizes the Medical Society of the
State of New York's Committee for Physicians Health program, and adds
additional statutory language to clarify that the liability protections
offered in the statute for physician participants in the program extend
to the organizations themselves as well as their employees acting with-
out malice and within the scope of its functions for the committee.
For over 30 years, the Medical Society's Committee for Physicians'
Health has successfully provided needed treatment and counseling to
numerous New York State physicians who are thought to be suffering from
alcoholism, substance abuse or mental illness. The New York State Legis-
lature has re-authorized the program numerous times, including most
recently enacting a 5-year extension in 2013.
Importantly, this statute exempts members of a physician committee of
the Medical Society of the State of New York, the New York State Osteo-
pathic Society, or a county medical society, including MSSNY's Committee
for Physicians' Health, from medical misconduct reporting requirements
based on information received solely from their participation on this
committee. The statute also expressly provides liability protections for
those physicians who serve on these committees for actions taken within
the scope of their functions for the committee.
However, a recent lower court decision has interpreted these liability
protections as not applying to the entity creating this physician
committee even though the statute expressly provides liability
protection for the physician members serving on this committee. There
would appear to be no good public-policy objective for this result
except for the possibility that the law may have unintentionally been
written in such a way that may have permitted this interpretation. This
legislation would correct this technical defect.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
Immediately provided, that these provisions shall expire and be deemed
repealed with the sections they are amending.
STATE OF NEW YORK
2015-2016 Regular Sessions
May 1, 2015
Introduced by M. of A. GOTTFRIED -- read once and referred to the
Committee on Health
AN ACT to amend the public health law, in relation to granting immunity
from liability to organizations which establish physician committees
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. Paragraph (g) of subdivision 11 of section 230 of the
2 public health law, as added by chapter 426 of the laws of 1983, subpara-
3 graphs (ii) and (iii) as amended by chapter 606 of the laws of 1991,
4 subparagraphs (v) and (vi) as added by chapter 582 of the laws of 1984,
5 is amended to read as follows:
6 (g) (i) Any physician committee of the Medical Society of the State of
7 New York, the New York State Osteopathic Society or a county medical
8 society referred to in subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (c) of this subdi-
9 vision shall develop procedures in consultation with, and approved by,
10 the commissioner [of the department of health], including but not limit-
11 ed to the following:
12 [(i)] (A) The committee shall disclose at least once a month such
13 information as the director of the office of professional medical
14 conduct may deem appropriate regarding reports received, contacts or
15 investigations made and the disposition of each report, provided however
16 that the committee shall not disclose any personally identifiable infor-
17 mation except as provided in [subparagraph (ii)] clause (B) or [subpara-
18 graph (iii)] (C) of this [paragraph] subparagraph.
19 [(ii)] (B) The committee shall immediately report to the director the
20 name, all information obtained and the results of any contact or inves-
21 tigation regarding any physician who is believed to be an imminent
22 danger to the public.
23 [(iii)] (C) The committee shall report to the director in a timely
24 fashion all information obtained regarding any physician who refuses to
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
A. 7267 2
1 cooperate with the committee, refuses to submit to treatment, or whose
2 impairment is not substantially alleviated through treatment.
3 [(iv)] (D) The committee shall inform each physician who is partic-
4 ipating in a program of the procedures followed in the program, of the
5 rights and responsibilities of the physician in the program and of the
6 possible results of noncompliance with the program.
7 [(v)] (ii) No member of any such committee; nor the Medical Society of
8 the State of New York, the New York State Osteopathic Society or a coun-
9 ty medical society referred to in subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (c) of
10 this subdivision that establishes a committee; nor any agent, servant,
11 representative or employee that provides service to any such committee
12 or society, shall be liable for damages to any person for any action
13 taken by such committee, society, member, agent, servant, representative
14 or employee provided that such action was taken without malice and with-
15 in the scope of such [member's] individual's function [as a member of]
16 to such committee.
17 [(vi)] (iii) The committee, in conjunction with the director of the
18 office of professional medical conduct, shall develop appropriate
19 consent forms and disclosure proceedings as may be necessary under any
20 federal statute, rule or regulation in order to permit the disclosure of
21 the information as may be required under [subparagraphs (ii)] clauses
22 (B) and [(iii)] (C) of subparagraph (i) of this paragraph.
23 (iv) Except as [herein] provided in this paragraph and notwithstanding
24 any other provision of law, neither the proceedings nor the records of
25 any such physician committee shall be subject to disclosure under arti-
26 cle thirty-one of the civil practice law and rules nor shall any member
27 of any such committee nor any person in attendance at any such meeting
28 be required to testify as to what transpired thereat.
29 § 2. This act shall take effect immediately; provided, that the amend-
30 ments to paragraph (g) of subdivision 11 of section 230 of the public
31 health law, made by section one of this act, shall not affect the repeal
32 of such paragraph, and shall be deemed repealed therewith; and provided,
33 further, that the amendments to subparagraphs (v) and (vi) of paragraph
34 (g) of subdivision 11 of section 230 of the public health law, made by
35 section one of this act, shall not affect the repeal of such subpara-
36 graphs, and shall be deemed repealed therewith.