North Carolina residents may be surprised to discover that many doctors who have been banned from practicing in certain hospitals and clinics are still legally allowed to practice medicine. According to an investigation done by USA Today, state medical boards allow thousands of doctors to continue practicing despite having put patients at risk or harmed them through misconduct or negligence. Some of these doctors have paid millions of dollars to settle medical malpractice suits, but their ability to practice medicine continues unimpeded.
Over the course of the study, researchers looked at data from the federally run National Practitioner Data Bank. This data bank's goal is to enable licensing boards to track data about physicians, including malpractice payments and disciplinary actions. Law states that any time a doctor faces adverse actions, it must be added to the data bank.
Researchers discovered that between 2001 and 2011, more than half of the 6,000 doctors whose clinical privileges were revoked or restricted by hospitals or other medical institutions were never fined or had limitations put on their license. Doctors with a history of medical malpractice suits also did not necessarily face penalties. Of the approximately 100,000 doctors who made payments to settle malpractice claims between 2001 and 2010, around 800 of them were responsible for 10 percent of payments made. In spite of this fact, fewer than one out of every five faced restrictions from state medical boards.
When someone has been harmed by a doctor, a lawyer could help them understand their rights and what their legal options are. Additionally, the lawyer could also assist them by pursing compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and other related expenses.
Source: USA Today, "Thousands of doctors practicing despite errors, misconduct", Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen, August 20, 2013