Physicians are not required to inform their patients that they are on probation for unethical conduct or medical errors that result in disciplinary actions. Most databases that contain this important information are either nearly impossible for the public to access or not comprehensive. This can make finding out a physician’s disciplinary history difficult for patients.
Physician Disciplinary Actions
Each year in the United States, thousands of doctors receive disciplinary actions and are put on probation by their state medical boards for medical errors and ethics violations. A recent report by Consumer Reports shows that disciplinary actions for over-prescribing controlled substances, sexual misconduct, personal addiction issues, and various other dangerous and unprofessional behaviors have been reported.
While Consumer Report’s Safe Patient Project continues to push for transparency, most patients are unable to access information about disciplinary actions and physicians who are on probation. Doctor’s are not required by law to inform their patients that they are on probation for misconduct. Disciplinary actions, probation records, and malpractice payouts are stored on the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), but records are not available to individuals and patients. According to law, hospitals and physicians, insurance companies, and law enforcement officials are the only ones allowed access to this information.
According to a Consumer Reports survey, at least 82 percent of Americans are in favor of making physician disciplinary actions available to patients. Most patients agreed that their doctors should inform them of disciplinary and probation actions filed against them. More than 65 percent of patients expressed that doctors should be barred from seeing patients while on probation.
Consumer Reports investigated state medical board websites in all 50 states and rated them from best to worst. California, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois websites ranked the highest, while websites for Hawaii, Indiana, and Mississippi came in last.
The American Medical Association and state medical boards around the country have denied efforts to make physicians’ disciplinary actions more transparent to consumers and patients. Consumer Reports recently petitioned the California medical board to require all doctors to inform their patients when they are on probation. The board rejected the idea because they felt it would damage doctor-patient relationships and create an extreme burden for physicians. Consumer Reports is currently working with consumers, state medical boards, and various government agencies to make it easier for patients to learn about their doctors’ disciplinary history.
Common Medical Errors
In the United States, more than 200,000 people die each year from medical errors made by hospitals and physicians. Up to 20 times more people are injured by medical errors but don’t die from their injuries. According to the NPDB, more than $85 million was paid out for medical malpractice in 2015. Chicago medical malpractice lawyers commonly see patients who are injured from medical errors made by Illinois hospitals, physicians, and other medical facilities and employees. In most cases, medical errors seen are preventable, but they occur due to negligence on the part of the hospital, attending physician, or medical staff. The most common types of medical errors include:
- Misdiagnosis of illness or injury
- Prescribing or administering the wrong medications
- Over-prescribing medications
- Infections transmitted by healthcare workers
- Infections caused by inserted tubes and lines
- Infections caused by unsanitary conditions
In the United States, medication errors are a leading cause of patient fatalities. Elderly adults and children are at the greatest risk for death from medication errors. Although there are many reasons that medical errors occur, they often result in patient illness and injury. In many cases, medical errors lead to serious complications that can result in long-term or permanent disabilities and death.
Filing Medical Malpractice in Illinois
In Illinois, the statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the injury. In some cases, medical malpractice actions can be brought up to four years from the date of the injury, but no later, even if the patient was not aware of the malpractice injury until a later date. If the patient is a minor, the statute of limitations is generally longer.
When fatalities occur due to medical errors or negligence, patients’ families are allowed by law to file wrongful death lawsuits and collect damages for medical bills and treatments, loss of income, and pain and suffering. In states that protect physician-patient privilege, the family must file a court order through a wrongful death attorney or make requests through state health officials to obtain the patient’s medical records which are necessary for a wrongful death lawsuit.