State Medical Boards Do Not Discipline a Significant Number of Doctors Sanctioned by Hospitals
The purpose of state medical boards is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the American public. Unfortunately, state medical boards are not doing enough to protect the American public from bad doctors. According to a recent report by the consumer advocacy group called Public Citizen, state medical boards have failed to discipline 55% of the nation’s doctors who were sanctioned by hospitals. That means of the 10,672 physicians listed in the National Practitioner Data Bank, about 5,887 doctors have been disciplined by hospitals but escaped any action by the state. According to the study, of the 5,887 doctors who were not disciplined, 2,071 of these doctors were considered an immediate threat to public health or safety, were incompetent or negligent, or provided substandard care. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group says, “either state medical boards are receiving the information from the hospitals and not acting on it, or they are not receiving the information from the hospitals.” Whichever the case may be, the problem needs to be solved.
Recent Medical Malpractice Cases Ignored by Medical Boards
Recently, an Illinois doctor had his clinical privileges permanently revoked after acquiring 10 medical malpractice judgments totaling 7 million dollars. Some of the doctor’s medical errors included improperly managing cases, failing to diagnose, and failing to identify fetal distress. One patient suffered a severe permanent injury, while another became a quadriplegic due to a brain injury. The Illinois state medical board never disciplined the doctor. Another doctor in Florida had hospital privileges permanently revoked for incompetence after 10 medical malpractice judgments totaling a million dollars. Some of the medical errors included performing an unnecessary procedure, leaving a foreign object in a patient, and misdiagnosis. Two of the patients died. However, the Florida state medical board took no action against this doctor.
How Ignoring the Problem Puts Patients at Risk
State medical boards and hospitals are also putting patients at risk by not reporting bad doctors to the National Practitioner Databank. The Databank was created to keep tabs on bad doctors. However, both state medical boards and hospitals fail to report many bad doctors to the Databank. For example, a doctor named Robert Ricketson who had previously lost his medical license in Oklahoma and Texas, was still able to find work in Hawaii. While in Hawaii he performed back surgery on a man. When the doctor realized he did not have the titanium rod he needed for the surgery, he decided to use a screwdriver instead. Three corrective surgeries later, his patient was left a bedridden paraplegic.
Until state medical boards begin to more rigorously discipline bad doctors and along with hospitals, report to the National Practitioner Databank, medical care will be unsafe for many U.S. citizens.