39% of incidents of medical malpractices are committed by 2% of doctors in the US according to a recent study entitled “Changes in Practice among Physicians with Malpractice Claims” and recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine . Many of these doctors are multi recidivists and have accumulated 5 or more paid lawsuits. While some of them quit, a majority of them just keep on going. The study found that 90% of them are indeed still in practice.
Any doctor can open a solo practice including those who have had several paid claims against them
Contrary to what many believe, most doctors who have been sued multiple times for medical malpractice do not relocate to another state. They often open their own practice because it gets more difficult for them to be hired by hospitals or healthcare groups. Any doctor can open their own practice, irrespective of the number of times he or she might have been sued for medical malpractice. Additionally patients are less likely to look for information about prior lawsuits than employers. Opening a solo practice also means less oversight but also an increased risk for more harm to patients. Should doctors with several malpractice claim be authorized to do so? Also should patients be able to easily access information on physicians past lawsuits?
The purpose of the actual medical malpractice system is not only to compensate patients but also to prevent bad doctors to hurt them and globally improve the quality of care. However very little is done in that direction. Intervention from peers, hospitals or insurers to help these doctors improve their practices are rare. Licensing boards do not flag physicians with a high number of claims. Information about past lawsuits is difficult to access for patients.
While some are complaining that the medical malpractice system is unfair and expensive, they should focus more on how it could actually improve patient care and as a result reduce costs of litigation.
Read more about it in the New York Times