The Medical Board in California is vested with the responsibility of licensing physicians as well as with investigating and disciplining doctors who fail to live up to the standards of their profession. Unfortunately, the Medical Board has failed to take action against many dangerous doctors, explains a California personal injury lawyer in the state.
In March 2011, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of a not-for-profit public interest group in Washington D.C. called Public Citizen, wrote a letter to the director of the California Medical Board indicating that an analysis of the National Practitioner Data Bank revealed some startling information. According to the database, 710 doctors who had lost or had privileges restricted between 1990 and 2009 by a hospital or medical entity had not faced any discipline from the state Medical Board. Among these 710 physicians, 102 were considered to be an “immediate threat” to patient health and safety.
The California Medical Board, unfortunately, did not take swift corrective action in response to this alarming news. Instead, the Board responded with a letter that essentially explained why action was not taken to investigate and potentially discipline these physicians: incapable of directly disciplining doctors, the Board only opens investigations into misconduct or negligence when a peer review body reports that actions have been taken to remove the physician’s privileges or when it is notified that a medical malpractice judgment or settlement against the physician has exceeded $30,000. Doctors disciplined by other state or federal agencies would also be subject to an investigation by the Board.
Even when the criteria to open an investigation are met, the California Medical Board may not take action, as disciplinary measures or medical malpractice awards are not always reported and the Board lacks the resources to review databases containing such information.
The Risk to Patients
The risk to patients as a result of the Medical Board’s failure to remove a doctor’s medical license is clear. When a doctor has had large malpractice verdicts or has been told by a hospital he or she is no longer allowed to provide care there, this is a major red flag that the physician is not capable of providing a level of professional care that patients expect and deserve when they seek medical attention.
Because dangerous physicians still retain a license to practice medicine, they can still provide services to patients and they can continue to practice medicine despite the risk they present. Patients who experience harm at their hands can, of course, take their own actions and file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, while a patient can be financially compensated for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and other costs through a California personal injury lawsuit, a lawsuit can never truly make up for a serious injury or even a death that could have been avoided if a bad doctor had been properly disciplined.
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