In the hotly debated issue of tort reform and health care reform, the role of state medical boards often gets overlooked. As a recently article in the Dallas Morning News, highlights, state medical boards are not always the best solution for disciplining physician misconduct. Furthermore, medical licensing boards do not even attempt to compensate those injured or killed as a result of medical negligence. The most effective way to deter medical negligence and misconduct is through accessing the civil justice system with medical malpractice law suits.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories have medical boards. The purpose of medical boards is to “protect the public from the unprofessional, improper, unlawful, fraudulent and/or incompetent practice of medicine” as mandated by the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The 10th Amendment gives states the legal authority to establish laws for the safety and well-being of the residents.
Accordingly to the recent article, the Texas Medical Board is failing in achieving that goal. The article cites a number of examples, from a neurosurgeon who operated on the wrong part of the body four times to doctors sentenced for crimes against children and seven doctors linked to a death.
Reporting physician misconduct, or malpractice, to a state medical board is just one course of action if you or a loved one has been seriously injured while under the care of a physician. Another is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, it is best to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer about your case. A top malpractice lawyer is well versed in state medical board disciplinary action, as well as applicable state and federal laws, and can help you determine the best course of action.
The Texas article states that of the roughly 48,000 physicians practicing in the state, 131 were disciplined at the meeting in October, and that only two had their licenses revoked. The other penalties range from community service and urine tests for alcohol to just additional Continuing Medical Education courses.
If your concern is deterring physician negligence, this is a huge problem. Because the state licensing board is not disciplining doctors, the civil justice system should pick up the slack in the form of medical malpractice litigation. However, Texas is one of a few states that imposed damages “caps” in 2003 in medical malpractice cases. The article notes one of the unintended consequences of the caps is that injured patients are “turning to the state regulatory agency to resolve concerns about their care.”
In Illinois, disciplining of doctors and other medical personnel is the responsibility of the Division of Professional Regulation. Each month, it publishes a Disciplinary Report, which includes the following information:
• Name of the disciplined professional
• City where he/she was practicing at the time of action
• Discipline imposed
• Brief description of the reason for the discipline
In July of this year, there were 21 disciplinary actions against doctors in Illinois, ranging from a $1000 fine “for failure to properly treat a patient,” to a license being revoked for giving a lethal dose of potassium chloride to a patient. The August 2009 report shows 53 licenses as being in “refuse to renew status due to a sister-state discipline,” meaning that the doctor may have violated standards in another state or has already been disciplined by the medical board of another state. And there were 12 disciplinary actions, ranging from fines levied in addition to sister-state disciplinary action to a $500 fine for leaving part of a drain in a patient’s knee.
State medical boards are meant to protect the public through licensing of doctors. However, they do not have the incentive or the experience to investigate malpractice claims and come to an impartial resolution holding negligent doctors accountable. Furthermore, medical licensing boards do nothing to compensate patients and their families who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical negligence. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured and suspect malpractice, contact a top Chicago medical malpractice lawyer today. Call us at (312) 527-4500 for a free consultation.