The Texas Observer published a detailed look at one doctor whose inadequacy lead to several patient deaths and many more serious injuries. Over a string of years, the professional committed one case of malpractice after another. The story discusses the specific mistakes made. But it also shows has the state’s internal review board, charged with ensuring bad doctors lose their license, failed to act in a timely manner. The entire situation is a good example of why private litigation remains so critical to patients safety–official public accountability channels need much improvement.
Neurosurgeon & Malpractice
The doctor in question opened his neurosurgery clinic in late 2010. He then began treating patients–making a number of huge mistakes along the way. But it wasn’t until two and a half years later than he finally lost his license to practice. Why did it take so long? Could quicker disciplinary action have saved lives?
The story notes how the state medical board received reports about the doctor’s track record of errors very early on. The complaints were not just from patients who were harmed. They were from other doctors and lawyers reviewing medical errors cases. All of the voices were essentially saying the same thing: This doctor should not be seeing patients. The fellow doctors who complained about the man were often the ones brought in to “clean up” his past mistakes. The colleagues used incredibly harsh words to describe his “surgical misadventures.”
Protecting the Industry, Not Patients
The dangerous doctor was allowed to practice for a year or more, even after his past errors were well-known. The reason has a lot to do with administrative and legislative changes in the state which made it harder for anyone to hold doctors accountable. From caps on litigation damages to tightened rules to prove negligence, the law changed to protect the interests of all those in the medical industry–not the patients who relied on their care.
Part of the problem is that it takes months–sometimes years–for investigations into doctor misconduct to be completed. Even then, the evidence against a doctor has to be overwhelming before the board will revoke a license. The red tape and delay is good for doctors but terrible for patients who often fall victim to errors made by doctors who should not be practicing. In almost all cases, patients have no way of knowing if their doctor is guilty of chronic malpractice.
In summarizing the situation the article authors chillingly argue that the the case is an example of “the weakness of [an] unregulated system of health care, a system built to protect doctors and hospitals. And a system in which there’s no way to know for sure if your doctor is dangerous.”
Don’t Stay Silent
Remaining silent about medical errors is never a good idea. Doctors who make mistakes must be held accountable, or, at the very least, be forced to learn from their error. That is only accomplished with others step up and make the issue known. For help with malpractice issues in Illinois, please contact our attorneys today.
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