State medical boards often fail to appropriately discipline doctors

The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen ranked the Indiana Medical Licensing Board 26th among states and the District of Columbia with regard to the number of serious disciplinary actions taken against physicians. Based upon the research it conducted, Public Citizen concluded that the majority of state medical boards were "under-disciplining" physicians by using reprimands and warnings rather than revoking or suspending licenses to practice. Public Citizen's conclusion is that most states simply are failing to live up to their obligations to "protect patients from doctors who are practicing medicine in a substandard manner."

Advisory Board Company, a health care consulting firm, also finds that state medical boards often fail to adequately address acts of medical malpractice. The Advisory Board Company notes that, while the clinical privileges were taken away or restricted for almost 6,000 doctors for misconduct related to patient care from 2001 to 2011, 52 percent of those doctors were not reprimanded and maintained their medical licenses without restrictions. Indeed, medical boards often fail to suspend or take the license of a doctor even though the doctor was determined to have provided incompetent or substandard care.

According to the Advisory Board Company, some doctors with the worse malpractice records were allowed to keep practicing. Interestingly, of almost 100,000 doctors who paid from 2001 to 2010 to resolve malpractice claims, almost 800 doctors were responsible for 10 percent of all the payments. Nonetheless, fewer 20 percent of those doctors faced licensure action by state medical boards.

Common malpractice errors

The National Patient Safety Foundation defines "medical error" to mean an unintended outcome caused by a defect or flaw in the delivery of healthcare to a patient. According to the Foundation, the following are some of the most typical health care mistakes:

  • Medication errors-when a patient receives the wrong medicine or when the patient is given the wrong dosage of the right medication.
  • Diagnostic errors-a diagnosis that was either wrong, missed or delayed.
  • Wrong-site surgery-an operation done on the wrong part of the body or the wrong surgery was performed.

Medication errors are, unfortunately, very common in the United States. They harm well over a million people a year and result in upward of three and a half billion dollars in extra medical costs. Recently, the Huffington Post published an article about physicians prescribing medications of dubious value which may actually be harmful. Low testosterone ("Low T") medicines are pointed out as being highly questionable both as to benefits and safety.

The Huffington Post article also discusses the problem of "overdiagnosis" caused when sophisticated diagnostic tests identify abnormalities so small and minute that they will probably remain benign and harmless. Nevertheless, the trend is to prescribe costly treatments when small abnormalities are found which may provide little benefit and often come with serious side effects leaving the patient worse off.

Bringing suit for medical malpractice

State medical boards often fall short of their goal to keep patients safe from medical errors. Do not allow yourself to be an uncompensated victim of medical malpractice. If you have reason to suspect that you have suffered injury as a result of medical malpractice, or if you have reason to believe that a loved one has been injured or died as the result of malpractice, contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice cases can navigate the intricacies of Indiana's Medical Malpractice Act and advise you of your best options under Indiana law.