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A study by Public Citizen, an independent watchdog group, reported a significant drop in State Medical Board Serious Disciplinary Actions against doctors from 2004 to 2007.  It is their opinion that this decrease represents the state medical boards failure to “protect patients from bad doctors.”

The actual number of serious disciplinary actions for 2007 was 2,743 for just over 939,000 doctors. That’s 553 less than in 2004 at the same time that there was a 6% increase in the number of practicing physicians.

Additionally, there are huge variations from state to state regarding how each state disciplines its doctors.  Most of the top ranked states are not very highly populated.  Only Ohio ranks in the top 10 and has been in the top 5 states for the past three years. 

Now to those of us who don’t study these numbers, not being in the top 10 may seem like a good thing.  It may appear that U.S doctors are doing a better job and therefore don’t need to be disciplined by their State Boards.  Public Citizen, however, sees it differently.

“Absent any evidence that the prevalence of physicians deserving of discipline varies substantially from state to state, this variability must be considered the result of the boards’ practices. Indeed, the ability of certain states to rapidly increase or decrease their rankings (even when these are calculated on the basis of three-year averages) can only be due to changes in practices at the board level; the prevalence of physicians eligible for discipline cannot change so rapidly.”

 “Most states are not living up to their obligations to protect patients from doctors who are practicing medicine in a substandard manner.  Action must then be taken, legislatively and through pressure on the medical boards themselves, to increase the amount of discipline and, thus, the amount of patient protection. Without adequate legislative oversight, many medical boards will continue to perform poorly.”

Is this any indication as to why doctors who have multiple medical malpractice lawsuits are allowed to practice medicine?  Is your State Board of Medicine doing its job of protecting you?  After reviewing your state’s ranking, if you don’t think they are, contact your state legislature to insist on better oversight of your local physicians. 


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