Doctors Face Lack of Punishment for Misconduct

Thousands of doctors from 2001 to 2011 were allowed to continue practicing medicine despite being disciplined or banned by hospitals, according to a USA TODAY investigative report.

Thousands of doctors from 2001 to 2011 were allowed to continue practicing medicine despite being disciplined or banned by hospitals, according to a new report.

Despite having their clinical privileges restricted or take away by hospitals for misconduct involving patient care, more than 3,000 over a 10-year period were never fined or hit with a license restriction, suspension or revocation, according to the USA TODAY report. That’s more than half of the doctors disciplined by hospitals.

“Many of the doctors have been barred by hospitals or other medical facilities; hundreds have paid millions of dollars to resolve malpractice claims. Yet their medical licenses — and their ability to inflict harm — remain intact.”

The misconduct by these doctors isn’t always minor, either. Nearly 250 of the doctors who retained their licenses, unrestricted, were cited as an “immediate threat to health and safety,” according to the report.

USA TODAY reviewed sources such as the National Practitioner Data Bank, to which, by law, reports must be filed when any licensed doctor faces “adverse actions.” However, it is up to the medical boards to monitor the NPDB. While some state boards have become more aggressive in policing these doctors, the overall picture is less heartening, clearly.

The recession clearly hurt medical boards, according to the report, as state finances were tightened.

"The states vary all over the lot in terms of the resources the boards have, whether they have good leadership, and whether they are regularly querying the (Data Bank)," Sidney Wolfe, a physician and founder of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, told USA TODAY. "Some states do a pretty good job; a lot of them don't."

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