When a doctor or other medical provider commits medical malpractice and a medical malpractice claim is paid on his/her behalf, the medical malpractice payment is supposed to be officially reported and the appropriate disciplinary agency is supposed to investigate the medical malpractice claim and take the appropriate disciplinary action against the medical malpractice wrongdoer, in compliance with each state’s laws. Many states have medical boards that are charged with the task of investigating medical malpractice claims and settlements and taking appropriate disciplinary action in appropriate cases in order to “protect the public.”
A Case Study: Massachusetts
In the past ten years, a Massachusetts doctor who delivers babies has settled three medical malpractice claims made against him. Yet the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has not disciplined the doctor.
In a recent investigation of doctor discipline in Massachusetts in which records for more than 16,000 doctors in Massachusetts were reviewed (there are about 33,000 doctors in Massachusetts), it was found that 654 doctors had settled one or more medical malpractice claims against them. Yet only six of the 654 doctors have been disciplined by the Board.
The investigation also found that in the past ten years, 14 doctors had settled three or more medical practice claims against them and yet none of them had been disciplined. The claims settled against these 14 doctors included the alleged failure to diagnose breast cancer, permanent paralysis as a result of the failure to diagnose a spine fraction, and the death of a twin baby.
On average, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine disciplined 51 doctors per year since 2006.
The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine states as its Mission Statement on its website as follows (in part):
The overriding mission of the Board is to serve the public by striving to ensure that only qualified physicians are licensed to practice in the Commonwealth, to ensure that those physicians and health care institutions in which they practice provide to their patients a high standard of care, and to support an environment that maximizes the high quality of health care in Massachusetts.
The Board investigates complaints, holds hearings and determines sanctions. These functions are critical to protecting the public by ensuring that only competent physicians and acupuncturists are practicing in Massachusetts.
While it is true that a settlement payment made as a result of a medical malpractice claim is not typically accompanied by an admission that the medical provider committed medical malpractice (that is, breached the applicable standard of care), it would appear to many people that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” — that is, a payment would not be made if there was no evidence of medical malpractice having occurred.
It is hard to believe that of the 654 doctors who made a medical malpractice settlement payment (based on a sample of more than 16,000 doctors out of a total of 33,000 doctors in Massachusetts), none of them should have been disciplined by the Board.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in Massachusetts or in any other state in the United States, then you may want to discuss your possible medical malpractice claim with a medical malpractice attorney.
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