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Serial malpractice offenders: scary when the subject is physicians

A lead-in to today's blog post might be termed "Reasonable assumptions gone awry." The facts that emerge from a recent article in an esteemed medical journal reveal with chilling force how something that should be a reality in the medical profession is far from uniformly being the case.

Here's a question posed to readers across Arizona and elsewhere: Do you believe that doctors generally possess a similar amount of acumen and skill as they examine, refer, treat and sometimes operate on patients?

The reasonable assumption cited above suggests that such a view would be generally accurate. Although there is certainly some variance among select physicians in their innate abilities, a central truth is that they all survived the rigors of medical school and the scrutiny of state boards pursuant to becoming duly credentialed. They all know what constitutes good care delivery.

Given that, why are some of them so dangerously bad? Why is there a notable band of outliers that repeatedly breach care standards and harm -- as well as kill -- patients?

The recent medical study in the New England Journal of Medicine addressing the small minority of physicians who pose outsized malpractice risks to patients has been termed "the most up-to-date and comprehensive study on this topic."

What it concludes is frankly stunning. A few nuggets of the information included these findings:

  • A mere 1 percent of MDs across the country are defendants in a shocking 32 percent of malpractice cases that end favorably for patient plaintiffs
  • Once a doctor is targeted in negligence-based litigation, the chance that he or she will end up repeatedly in court rises
  • Male physicians are almost 40 percent more likely than female doctors to be sued for substandard care
  • Bad medical/legal outcomes don't routinely keep problem doctors from practicing; in fact, many just continue as always with their practices

Such news certainly equates to alarm bells in uppercase for the general public.

The study's research team hopes that further information gathering will better help to identify high-risk doctors and enable regulatory interventions to shield the public from the harm they cause.

What the study does, says its lead author, "is shine a light on the problem."

Persons with questions or concerns regarding substandard medical care can obtain candid advice and proven advocacy from an experienced plaintiffs' medical malpractice attorney.

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