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Most Negligent Doctors Avoid Any Punishment

A common problem with which many states grapple is the best way to handle doctors charged with allegations of abuse and neglect. We have often discussed the way in which punishment for negligent Illinois doctors was handled (or not handled). Unfortunately, far too often the scale is tipped against the victims and future patients of these dangerous doctors-allowing them to return to practice without much sanction at all. As a result, future patients are placed at risk of suffering unnecessary complications.

A new study by Public Citizen explored the problem of doctor discipline across the country. The data culled from the National Practitioner Data Bank revealed that more than half of doctors who had committed errors requiring a loss of clinical privileges were not punished by state medical boards. Of the 10,600 doctors who had a facility restrict their practice because of medical errors or patient abuse, only 45% also lost their medical license or were in any way punished by the state medical board.

It is unclear why the disconnect remains. The author of the study explained, “Either state medical boards are receiving this disturbing information from hospitals but not acting on it, or much less likely, they are not receiving the information at all. Something is broken and needs to be fixed.”

State medical boards have the ability to review these hospital disciplinary records and take necessary action against that physcian’s medical license to protect future patients. However, as this study illustrates, the concern for future medical patients is not present.

For example, a negligent Illinois doctor had his clinical privileges removed and had 10 medical malpractice reports issued totaling $7 million because of case mismanagement, failure to diagnose, and other issues. One of his Illinois medical malpractice victims ultimately suffered a devastating brain injury, becoming a quadriplegic. Yet, even after of all that, the Illinois state medical board did not discipline the doctor.

When clearly dangerous physicians are allowed to keep seeing (and harming) patients, there has clearly been a breakdown in safety oversight by a medical board. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are appalled at the disregard shown for medical patients, victims, and their families. Enforcement of state law must be stepped up and dangerous Illinois doctors must be held accountable for their conduct.

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