Finding Out if Your Doctor Has Been Sued
July 18, 2002
As a result of new legislation, a growing number of state medical boards have been opening the books on the misdeeds of their members.
- California, New York and Florida recently joined Massachusetts in posting previously secret files on doctors' criminal convictions, major hospital disciplinary actions, malpractice judgments, licensing revocations and sanctions by other states' medical boards.
- All but a handful of states now have some data on disciplined doctors on the Web, and are under pressure to add more detailed information.
- A few nonprofits are posting multi-state data online.
Of the more than 800,000 licensed medical doctors in the U.S., however, there are only 2 percent to 3 percent whose care or conduct is substandard enough to be cited by a state medical disciplinary board, according to the organization Public Citizen, which runs a Web site, questionabledoctors.org.
Some doctors are disciplined for mere administrative oversights such as failing to renew their licenses on time. Or they may have defaulted on a student loan.
On the other hand, some may not be doctors at all. The biggest danger to consumers, says Stephen Barrett, founder of an organization called Quackwatch, are the "health hucksters," -- unscrupulous phony doctors and alternative medicine practitioners whom he targets on his site at the nonprofit National Council Against Health Fraud (www.ncahf.org).
Source: Laura Landro, "Has Your Doctor Been Sued?" Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2002.
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