Review system allows dangerous doctors to practice medicine


28
August
2013

For years, consumer groups and politicians have voiced concerns over the operation of state medical boards, which are supposed to hold physicians accountable for their patients’ health and safety. However, there are physicians around the country, including in New York state, who continue to practice medicine despite being accused of grave medical errors and mistakes. In some instances, these physicians have paid millions of dollars in malpractice claims and lost clinical privileges at hospitals and other health care institutions.

The National Practitioner Data Bank compiles information on doctors who have had their clinical privileges restricted or revoked. It also collects information regarding medical malpractice judgments and settlements. The state medical review boards are supposed to use this information to determine if a physician’s license to practice medicine should be revoked or restricted. However, in almost 50 percent of cases, an investigation found, these matters do not get reported to the Data Bank.

There are real-life consequences to these administrative failings. For example, a physician in Louisiana lost clinical privileges at his hospital but maintained a clean medical license despite paying more than $2 million in malpractice claims arising out of numerous malpractice cases, including five wrongful deaths. In another case, a patient died after a physician improperly prescribed medicine. He continued to practice and prescribe medicine while he was undergoing disciplinary review. Within a year, another patient was improperly prescribed medicine that led to her death by mixed drug intoxication.

Despite the best intentions of medical review committees and state medical boards, it is nevertheless very common that physicians with a history of medical errors will continue to treat patients. These patients are almost always unaware of previous errors the physician has made. Lawsuits initiated by medical malpractice attorneys may be another way to hold these physicians accountable for their mistakes and to compensate innocent patients who are injured as a result of medical malpractice or negligence.

Source: USA Today, “Thousands of doctors practicing despite errors, misconduct“, Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen, August 20, 2013

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