When you go in for surgery, you literally put your life in the hands of your surgeon. You understand that every procedure comes with certain risks, but you probably don't expect those risks to come from a surgeon who fails to adhere to ethical and medical standards.
With as much reverence as people tend to give surgeons due to their skill and expertise (often rightly so), it can be easy to forget that they are flawed human beings like everyone else. They make mistakes during procedures and engage in behaviors in their personal lives that put patients in jeopardy. Considering this, it would be nice to know if your surgeon has ever received any complaints or disciplinary issues before you allow that surgeon to take a scalpel to your body.
The code of silence in the medical industry
Even though you can look up a doctor through a state's medical board, such as the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, finding out whether he or she has a record of complaints or disciplinary actions may not be quite as easy. You may not even know that your surgeon is on probation due to medical mistakes, ethical violations or substance abuse issues.
Several state boards and the American Medical Association believe that knowing about a doctor's history could harm the relationship between doctor and patient and put an unrealistic burden on doctors. They take the choice away from you to know just who would be operating on you. The details surrounding a doctor's disciplinary records may only be accessed by the following in most cases:
- Law enforcement officials
- Insurance companies
- Other doctors
Like other industries, such as law enforcement, the public doesn't appear to have the right to know. The amount of information you can garner may be buried in reports or so vague that you can't tell what really happened and whether it would affect your decision to go through with surgery with a particular doctor.
When a surgeon harms you
Even a surgeon without a record of disciplinary action can fall below the accepted standard of care by making a mistake or violating the code of ethics. If you suffered harm at the hands of a surgeon that required additional surgeries and/or caused you to suffer permanent or debilitating injuries, you may consider pursuing a medical malpractice claim.
During an investigation into your case, you may find that the medical licensing board placed your surgeon on probation for one reason or another. Even though this information comes too late to help you, it could help establish a pattern of negligence. More than likely, you will need help with this and the rest of your claim, and you may greatly benefit from consulting with a medical malpractice attorney.