USA Today Investigation Reveals Horrifying Practice of Dangerous Doctors Starting Over In New States with Clean Records
A recent USA Today investigation involving doctors illegally selling patients meds, botching surgeries, being implicated in patients’ deaths, and sexually assaulting patients has the country taking a new look at medical malpractice and our “broken” medical license system. According to the investigation, the existing medical license system has hundreds of potentially dangerous doctors with questionable records starting over in new states, in spite of significant disciplinary documentation in the previous state(s) they practiced in. And perhaps the worst part of all: patients have no real way of finding out.
The investigation uncovered more than 500 physicians who were disciplined or even barred from practicing medicine by one state medical board, but legally practicing medicine in another state with a completely clean license. In some of these cases, it appears that doctors had allegedly surrendered their licenses on purpose in the face of overwhelming evidence against them, which prevented formal charges and a hearing before the state’s medical board, and left them with no restrictions on practicing elsewhere.
What Kind Of Malpractice Mistakes Are Involved?
To give you some idea of just how bad some of these violations are, the investigation presents the profile of doctors who were paid as much as $1.4 million in Medicare funds who had the following blemishes on their records: A history of inappropriate sexual contact with female patients such that they were only allowed to treat female patients with a chaperone present and settling three medical malpractice cases, including one missed diagnosis case that resulted in a patient’s death.
States Not Using Available Databases
How is this even possible? While, in some cases, voluntary license surrender means that the relevant records are kept secret, in other cases, the issue is simply that states are not following up on what their licensed doctors previously did in other states. According to federal records, only about half of all state medical boards checked the database fewer than 100 times, and many did not even bother checking the database once.
Federal Agencies Not Using Their Own Database before Paying With Medicare Funds
Sadly, it’s not just the states that aren’t doing their due diligence: the investigation also found that hundreds of doctors with questionable records were still able to bill Medicare for services provided to patients. In fact, in 2015, just the 216 doctors that the USA Today investigation focused on were paid a reported $25 million in Medicare funds.
This is especially shocking given that the same agency that regulates Medicare—the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—is also charged with maintaining the National Practitioner Data Bank, the national database designed to keep track of all disciplinary measures taken against doctors, including all sanctions imposed by state medical boards.
Contact Our Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys
When it comes medical malpractice, unfortunately, patients cannot necessarily rely on due diligence done by states, medical boards, or even the federal government to protect them. Sadly, they can’t even rely on being able to track this information down themselves.
When it comes to holding doctors responsible, sometimes medical malpractice litigation is the only way. Contact our medical malpractice attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan today to find out more.