Surgical malpractice is something that many Boston area patients and people around the country fear. When a patient goes in for surgery, simple mistakes can result in lifelong disability or even wrongful death. Surgeons accused of malpractice are sometimes reprimanded by a medical board and can even lose their license in addition to facing personal injury lawsuits from patients' families.
One loophole in the medical board model of discipline is that it is often state-specific and that states may fail to fully investigate doctors who move from other areas. Therefore a doctor accused of medical malpractice in Boston could simply apply for a license elsewhere and continue recklessly harming patients. A recent article accuses one surgeon of doing just that. The former top-paid surgeon at a hospital moved to another state after at least nine malpractice lawsuits were filed against him.
The surgeon was a former top physician at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. The surgeon moved to Texas after a slew of malpractice lawsuits settled for approximately $3.2 million and a reprimand from the Board of Medical Practice. The medical board reprimanded the surgeon by focusing on four cases in which the neurosurgeon harmed patients, but the doctor reportedly settled five malpractice suits out of court. Two patients allegedly died due to the surgeon's mistakes.
The Minnesota board ordered the surgeon to have another neurosurgeon supervise his work but the doctor now practices in Texas wholly unsupervised. The Texas Medical Board usually adopts disciplinary actions taken by a state form which a surgeon moves, but the surgeon's medical license is clear and unrestricted. In our next post we will discuss how this unfortunate situation could be possible.
Source: Duluth News Tribune, "In Texas, former Duluth surgeon may be sanction-free," Brandon Stahl and Mark Stodghill, 5/31/11