All too often, a doctor who commits medical malpractice (or even multiple instances) will continue to treat patients. Because of this risk, it is imperative for those seeking treatment to ensure they investigate their doctors thoroughly to learn about any past claims. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to find out if a doctor has been accused of negligence or wrongdoing.
CBS News told the heartbreaking story of a 42-year-old wife and physician who lost her life after an emergency surgery for appendicitis. She bled to death in her hospital bed, and her husband, who was also a doctor, subsequently realized that the treating physicians could likely have prevented her death if lab testing or imaging studies had been ordered to see why her blood pressure was critically low after the surgery. The husband sued the physician he believed was responsible for his wife’s death and the case settled for the maximum his insurance policy would pay – $250,000 – despite the surgeon denying wrongdoing.
A review of state records determined that the surgeon had 11 prior malpractice lawsuits since 2000, which tied with another M.D. for the most accusations of any practicing physician in Florida. Despite the many cases against him, however, the state Board of Medicine never imposed any restrictions on the surgeon’s license.
This is not an uncommon issue. Of the 25 doctors with the most malpractice payouts, just four had lost their licenses and three of those had lost their ability to practice medicine only after they were arrested for drug trafficking or billing fraud. The fourth failed to comply with the terms of lesser sanctions and lost his license then. None of the physicians had been prevented from continuing to treat patients just because they provided poor quality medical care.
Recent studies show that many state boards are failing to protect their patients. In a ranking of medical boards based on the number of actions that are taken per physician, South Carolina is one of the states where the board does the least, along with Florida, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Since more than half of all doctors in the U.S. between 1990 and 2009 who had their privileges restricted or revoked by a hospital had no action taken against them by a state medical board, this means it is possible that very few physicians in South Carolina have been stopped from providing care even after terrible mistakes.
Medical malpractice can have serious consequences, with patients experiencing a downgraded prognosis for recovery or suffering death. Victims can seek compensation with the help of a lawyer, and malpractice insurers may pay out damages to fully cover medical costs, income loss, pain and suffering, emotional distress or wrongful death losses. When this occurs and patients or their families suffer, it is natural to assume that there will be real consequences for the doctors who made devastating mistakes.
Victims suffer when state medical boards do not have proper oversight. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Howell Law should be consulted for help if you or your family is harmed by a negligent doctor.