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Catastrophic Injuries

Are state medical boards falling short in punishing doctors for malpractice?

Doctors are not infallible. Even the most skilled physicians with the best of intentions can make mistakes. Any licensed medical professionals falling short of the basic standards of care can face disciplinary action by their respective state medical boards.

Multiple malpractice offenders escape severe punishment

According to an investigation by CBS News, these governing bodies are not living up to their responsibilities. Medical boards are falling woefully short in their follow-through when it comes to holding doctors accountable. Oversight is lax at best, with only one in seven physicians accused of malpractice actually being disciplined.

Physicians who have been responsible for multiple acts of malpractice are often unlikely to be sanctioned. For those who are punished, the “sentence” is not in line with the offense they committed.

Medical boards are composed mainly of doctors appointed to serve along with non-physicians. The likelihood of a friend or colleague appearing before them is possible, representing a clear conflict of interest. Also, members who do not have medical licenses are more likely to take the side of a doctor who doesn’t feel that malpractice occurred or punishment should be severe.

Specific, so-called “punitive” measures are alarmingly light and raise questions about this form of “justice.” In one case, a doctor – who already settled five malpractice claims – hid the fact that he had already lost his surgical privileges at two hospitals in the same state, and received only a $500 fine by his state’s medical board.

A claim of malpractice does not mean automatic sanctions for the medical professional. Those who are punished represent a small fraction – only two percent – of doctors. Yet, those same physicians continue to practice, putting patients at risk when state medical boards do little to punish them.