According to an investigation by USA Today, thousands of doctors continue to practice despite making terrible errors with patients. State medical boards have not revoked their licenses even after they have engaged in serious misconduct.

In fact, many of these doctors cannot work in hospitals and other medical institutions. However, they practice medicine because their medical licenses were not affected.

While not all state boards ignore the problem, state and federal records show that the system can be slow in taking action, eager to find excuses for doctors’ behavior and overburdened with heavy workloads and budget restraints.

USA Today’s research reveals that doctors who have been disciplined or barred from practicing in hospitals tend to keep clean licenses. Between 2001 and 2011, almost 6,000 doctors were either restricted in their clinical privileges or had them completely removed by hospitals and other medical facilities due to errors in patient care. Yet more than 3,000 of these physicians were never fined or given a license restriction, suspension or revocation by a state medical board.

Even the most serious misbehavior can go without any punishment. Although health institutions cited nearly 250 doctors for being “an immediate threat to health and safety,” their licenses were unaffected. Approximately 900 were sanctioned for substandard care, negligence, incompetence or malpractice, but they received no penalties from their state boards.

Shockingly, doctors with the most terrible malpractice records still treat patients. Almost 100,000 doctors paid to resolve medical malpractice claims from 2001 to 2011. About 800 of these doctors accounted for 10 percent of all of the money provided to victims and their families. The total payouts averaged around $5.2 million per medical practitioner. Nonetheless, fewer than one in five of the doctors experienced any licensure action by state medical boards.

Why State Boards Struggle

There’s no question that state medical boards are failing to protect patients from dangerous doctors. But boards must deal with laws that involve both due process and confidentiality issues, which can restrict what they can do.

Furthermore, cases against doctors require thorough investigations and legal preparations. Both take time and can be challenging for boards that face tight budgets and small staffs.

The problem is that patients’ lives are at risk. The oversight and penalty system for doctors is flawed. As a result, people who trust their doctors to help them may be hurt instead.

Need Legal Help?

When you go to your doctor, you expect that your safety and comfort will be top priorities. If your physician made an error that has caused you harm, it’s natural to feel betrayed. If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice in South Carolina, contact our South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm. Call (877) 936-9707 or use our online form so we can offer you advice about your rights.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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