Doctors should be held accountable by other doctors, including their state medical boards, in which their peers seek to uphold the standards of the profession.
We give doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers a considerable amount of trust. We put our lives and our loved ones in their hands, and hope that our trust will be repaid by quality care. However, all too often, doctors make mistakes, what might be called medical malpractice.
How Common Are Medical Mistakes?
Unfortunately, it’s very hard to get a handle on exactly how many medical mistakes occur every year. One of the best attempts was made by the Department of Health and Human Services, which looked at the medical records of Medicare patients. They found that about 1 in 7 (13.5%) Medicare patients were harmed during their hospital stay. Worse, about 1.5% (more than 1 in 70) died as a result of their harm. This translates to 134,000 Medicare patients harmed and 15,000 killed every month during hospital stays, and physician review indicated that about 44% of these were due to preventable errors.
Who Holds Doctors Accountable?
Doctors should be held accountable by other doctors, including their state medical boards, in which their peers seek to uphold the standards of the profession. However, this is rarely the case. A relatively small number of bad doctors are responsible for most of the medical errors in the US. According to a 2007 study by Public citizen, just 5.9% of doctors were responsible for 57.8% of medical malpractice payouts, and 1.1% of doctors were responsible for 20% of them! However, medical boards are not holding these doctors accountable. Here are the proportions that are disciplined by their medical boards:
- Only 9% of doctors with 2 or more medical malpractice payments
- Only 12% of doctors with 3 or more payments
- Only 15% of doctors with 4 or more payments
- Only 33% of doctors with 10 more payments
You read that right—2/3 of doctors with 10 or more payments for medical errors are not disciplined.
The only one holding these doctors accountable are the injured patients and the lawyers who help them. If you have been hurt by a medical error, it is important that you step forward to ensure the doctor’s error is recognized and compensated.