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Investigation finds doctors keep licenses despite malpractice


Medical malpractice can cause serious and irreparable harm to Oregon patients. For this reason, it may come as a surprise to learn that thousands of doctors responsible for hospital staff negligence still have their licenses to practice medicine. Despite fatal errors and medical malpractice lawsuits, these physicians have gone unpunished by state medical boards.

The findings come from a recent investigation by USA Today. The investigation found doctors with medical licenses intact despite paying millions of dollars towards malpractice suits and being barred from practicing medicine by hospitals and other facilities. The investigation’s review of state and federal records show an unsettling picture of the oversight system. State medical licensing boards are often slow to act and punish physicians despite the harm inflicted on their patients. Problems are excused as the systems struggle on fiscally tight state budgets.

Research done in connection to the investigation found that doctors who are disciplined or barred from hospitals often keep unrestricted medical licenses. For example, from 2001 to 2011 around 6,000 doctors were restricted from medical facilities due to misconduct involving patients. More than 50% of these doctors were never fined by a state medical board or given a license restriction.

The investigation also found that even the most serious cases of malpractice often go unpunished. Around 900 doctors cited for negligence, malpractice and substandard care were allowed to keep practicing medicine without any impact on their medical license. Amid these findings, it is more important than ever for patients to know their legal rights when it comes to medical malpractice and misconduct. A malpractice claim is a way to hold negligent doctors and hospital staff members responsible for their mistakes and the injuries inflicted on patients.

Source: USA Today, “Thousands of doctors practicing despite errors, misconduct,” Peter Eisler & Barbara Hansen, Aug. 20, 2013