August 28, 2020

“Physicians with poor malpractice liability records may pose a risk to patient safety … [a] small group of physicians accounts for a disproportionately large share of all malpractice claims and patient complaints. This maldistribution has long been evident, but studies in the past several years have brought it into sharper focus. For example, our 2016 study of paid malpractice claims over a 10-year period estimated that 1% of physicians accounted for nearly one third of the claims and that 94% of physicians had none … physicians who accrue multiple claims are a distinctive subgroup. Despite concerns that these physicians pose a heightened risk of harm to patients, few studies have focused on them, and data are lacking on whether their legal difficulties prompt changes in clinical practice … even among physicians who had accrued five or more claims, more than 90% continued to practice … Physicians with multiple claims who continued to practice were more likely than colleagues without claims to switch to smaller practices or solo practice. However, there was no clear association between the number of claims and the propensity to relocate, within or between states.”


A study entitled Physicians with multiple paid medical malpractice claims: Are they outliers or just unlucky? that was published in 2019 stated the following highlights:

• A single prior paid medical malpractice claim nearly quadruples the likelihood of a future paid claim.

• More generally, the number of prior paid claims strongly predicts both the likelihood of having future paid claims and the expected number of future claims.

• Even for physicians in high-risk specialties in high-risk states, bad luck is unlikely to explain having two paid claims in five years, and highly unlikely to explain three or more claims in 5 years.

• Hospitals and state medical boards can use our approach to identify physicians that are likely to benefit from graduated interventions aimed at reducing future claims and patient harm.

Prominent 2019 Cases

William Husel, D.O.: This Ohio critical care doctor was indicted in June 2019 and charged with 25 counts of murder for allegedly intentionally and deliberately ordering overdoses of fentanyl that were given to patients at Mount Carmel and St. Ann’s hospitals in Columbus to help end their lives.

George Tyndall, M.D.: The ex-University of Southern California (USC) gynecologist was arrested in June 2019 and charged with the sexual assault of student patients. He is charged with sexually assaulting 16 women over a seven-year period when he worked at the university. He was charged with 18 counts of sexual penetration and 11 counts of sexual battery by fraud, which are both felonies. Hundreds of women alleged that this gynecologist sexually abused or harassed them while treating them at the university’s student health center.

James Heaps, M.D.: This college gynecologist was charged with sexually abusing patients. He faces criminal charges related to two accusations yet he has been accused by more than 50 women of sexual assault.

Joel Smithers, D.O.: This Virginia physician was sentenced to 40 years in prison for illegally prescribing opioids, including one prescription that caused a woman’s death. He was convicted in May 2019 after a nine-day jury trial of 861 counts of illegally distributing opioids, including prescribing oxycodone and oxymorphone that caused the death of a West Virginia woman. He allegedly prescribed controlled substances to every patient in his practice, distributing over 500,000 doses to patients from Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Tennessee, including oxymorphone, oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl.


Most Recent Case

A Settlement Agreement filed on August 26, 2020 with the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners allowed an infectious disease doctor implicated in the deaths of two of his patients and causing severe harm to other patients, to admit to medical records violations with the penalty being that his medical license be revoked with the right to apply for reinstatement in one year, and the payment of fines, costs, and expenses.


The Hippocratic Oath undertaken by many (but not all) doctors when they receive their medical degrees is often summarized as “First, do no harm.” Since patient safety is the prime consideration in medical care and treatment, isn’t it time to remove doctors whose actions or omissions in treating patients have resulted, time and time again, in harm to the patients?

If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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