While most physicians are conscientious practitioners of their craft and treat their patients ethically and within the scope of what is considered sound medical practice, some have a lengthy history of medical malpractice complaints and judgments against them. My law partner, Kevin Dugan, wrote a blog post a few days ago about the federal government’s decision to disallow the public’s access to a medical database concerning physician errors. That decision is a huge mistake and will no doubt result in a less informed public regarding the state of their own healthcare and the manner in which they make their healthcare decisions.
The problem is more widespread than the government’s recent decision. Some state licensing boards continue to allow physicians to practice medicine even after numerous medical malpractice complaints and judgments. A recent Kansas City Star investigation found that 20 doctors practicing in Kansas and Missouri were doing so in spite of significant histories of medical malpractice. Medical errors by these physicians were serious and included operating on the wrong body part, leaving surgical material inside of patients, as well as failures to diagnose illnesses.
In Minnesota, the Duluth News Tribune found that one neurosurgeon was finally sanctioned by the state licensing board but only after 9 malpractice complaints, two of which resulted in the death of the patient and one involving permanent paralysis. In spite of the sanction, the neurosurgeon was allowed to continue to operate. When the doctor moved to Texas, his record never followed him.
These are just a few examples of instances in which state medical licensing boards have failed in their public duty to protect patients. Patients seeking medical treatment have a right to know about their physicians’ history and his track record.
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