A recent report by CBS News indicates of dozens of Florida doctors with the most medical malpractice payouts, only four had lost their medical license. In three of those cases, action was only taken after the physician was arrested for either billing fraud or drug trafficking. In the fourth, the doctor failed to comply with previous terms of a lesser punishment.

stethascope4The case that prompted review was the death of a 42-year-old wife and mother of two boys, who was treated for appendicitis while on vacation with her family in Florida. Coincidentally, she was also a doctor, as was her husband. She underwent emergency surgery for her condition, but ended up bleeding to death in the hospital just two days later.

Weeks passed, and her husband asked to review her medical files. What he found convinced him his wife’s death was not inevitable. She could have been saved, he asserts, if her blood pressure had been appropriately monitored. It fell to critically low levels hours after surgery. And yet, no surgeons or physicians ordered imaging studies or lab tests to determine what was going on. As the plaintiff/doctor would later insist, these are the sort of vital signs that anyone with rudimentary training would recognize as problematic.

For this reason, he sued the surgeon who oversaw her care, blaming him partially for her death. As our Sarasota medical malpractice attorneys understand, it wasn’t the first time this doctor faced such an accusation. In fact, it was at least the 11th since just 2000.

The surgeon would not admit wrongdoing, but settled for the maximum insurance policy payout of $250,000.

This particular doctor was tied for No. 1 in terms of the most lawsuit payouts in the state. And yet, the Florida Board of Medicine has never revoked or even restricted his license.

Cases like this underscore two important points worthy of discussion. The first is that the risk of poor medical care is much higher than one might think. Consider that not one doctor out of the 25 most-sued in Florida lost his or her license for providing patients with poor care.

The second is that the argument often held up by big insurance companies and certain politicians that medical malpractice litigation is somehow “out-of-control” and keeping good doctors from staying in business simply isn’t true. The reality is that even doctors whose insurers have paid out out a dozen medical malpractice claims on their behalf are continuing to practice.

Advocates for watchdog group Public Citizens  say that such findings prove the state board of medicine isn’t doing its job. At what point do we say, “This is not just a fluke”?

The problem isn’t limited to Florida, though. A Public Citizen study found that between 1990 and 2009, more than half of doctors whose privileges were restricted or revoked by a hospital had never been so much as fined by the medical board in their respective state. In ranking those boards with the least number of physicians per state, Florida ranked dead last. Others included Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Carolina.

In the aforementioned case of the vacationing wife and mother who bled to death, the Florida Board of Medicine sent her doctor husband a letter about one year after her passing. The notice indicated the agency had investigated the doctor’s actions and “found no basis to file a complaint.” The husband, a physician himself, was dumbfounded, wondering aloud whether the board ever even reviewed the case.

If you have been a victim of a medical malpractice, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Despite multiple malpractice payouts, doctors often keep practicing, Sept. 12, 2014, By Ben Eisler, Mark Strassmann, CBS News

More Blog Entries:

Buck v. Columbia Hospital Corp. – General Negligence Versus Medical Negligence, Oct. 1, 2014, Sarasota Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog