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No Accountability: Doctors Who Face No Penalty For Errors

This week the Star Tribune followed up its report on minimal publication of doctor histories, with a new analysis on doctor sanctions. The report suggests that penalties are usually few and far between for those medical professionals who breach standards of care. It is yet another reminder for our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers that many negligent medical professionals would have no accountability at all were it not for patients and their families stepping up and demanding it themselves.

There is a mistaken assumption among some that blatant medical errors are accounted for by state medical boards or other oversight bodies. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. For example, take the case of one doctor discussed in the Star Tribune report. A medical malpractice attorney who actually defended doctors in these cases filed her own lawsuit against a physician after a botched facial cleanse. The procedure was incredibly painful and the next day her face was swollen with wounds that bled. Eventually, the woman received a $1 million medical malpractice verdict against the dermatologist for his conduct.

As part of the situation, she had also urged the state’s board of medical practice to take disciplinary action against the man for the botched facial peel. The attorney found at least five other patients who were also harmed by the man’s care. She took that information a second time to the medical board in hopes of getting action. Considering there had been repeated victims, it would have been logical for the board to want to ensure that the doctor was not repeatedly negligent and allowed to harm future patients. Surprisingly, the board did nothing. The woman has yet to be contacted and interviewed by those charged with holding these doctors to a reasonable standard and keeping unsuspecting patients safe.

The case of this physician is apparently not unique. A journalistic investigation found that the state’s medical board frequently avoids investigating doctors even after repeated claims are made against them by patients harmed by their actions. The analysis revealed at least 46 cases of doctors who were not punished in any way by the state, even though those same doctors lost their licenses in other states. The cases included physicians that had committed crimes and even had inappropriate sexual relationships with patients.

This lack of discipline is compounded by the fact that the state’s board has been criticized for not keeping the public informed about dangerous practitioners. As each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm knows, sunshine is always the best policy when it comes to quality of care. Yet, many parts of the country still do not provide the public with information about patient’s medical malpractice awards and sanctions.

Members of the state’s medical board have defended the decisions, claiming that they believe the public is adequately protected. However, patient safety experts think otherwise. Many have argued that the state is not doing nearly enough to keep patients safe. These advocates find the failure to sanction doctors who have been disciplined in other states to be very alarming. They note that in the end, it remains even more important for patients themselves to demand redress and accountability when errors are made.

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