Patients at Risk of Medical Malpractice
Written by Faith Anderson on May 23, 2012
Doctors Get Away With Medical Mistakes
On May 17, the consumer advocate group Public Citizen released its annual report on how often state medical boards take severe disciplinary action against doctors, and the findings were less than encouraging. In 2011, the report noted, 3.06 doctors out of every 1,000 were subjected to serious disciplinary actions by state medical boards. While this number represents a slight increase over 2010’s rate of 2.97 doctors per 1,000, the figures suggest that far too many medical boards are letting doctors get away with practicing bad medicine.
States Most and Least Likely to Discipline Doctors
According to the report, South Carolina was the state found to be least likely to discipline a poor physician, with only 1.33 actions per 1,000 doctors. In fact, the state has found itself on the “worst 10” list nine times since 2001. Other states and territories that failed to adequately penalize medical mistakes included Minnesota, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Florida, and the District of Columbia. On the other hand, Wyoming was the state found to be most likely to discipline doctors for their medical errors, with 6.79 disciplinary actions for every 1,000 doctors. Other states included in the top ten list included Delaware, New Mexico, Louisiana, Ohio, Alaska, Nebraska, West Virginia and Washington.
Medical Boards Balking on Patient Protection
In its report, Public Citizen warns that the gross lack of disciplinary action is a failure on the part of medical boards to fulfill their obligations to protect patients, although it may be due in part to tighter state budgets. “Action must be taken, legislatively and through public pressure on medical boards themselves, to increase the amount of discipline, and thus, the amount of patient protection,” said Dr. Sydney Wolfe, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “Ensuring that medical boards are adequately funded is an important prerequisite to achieving this, especially because doctor’s licensing fees, intended to fund medical board functions, are sometimes taken to fund other state functions.”