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Can’t sue your doctor? Make sure his unethical behavior is reported

Let’s face it. Doctors make mistakes from time to time, and sometimes these mistakes cause serious injury or death to a patient. For some patients, there is the option of pursuing a doctor for medical malpractice if injuries are serious enough to warrant doing so. As some readers may know, though, that is not the case for patients of doctors at Veterans Administration hospitals.

Doctors at VA hospitals are usually protected from medical malpractice claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows them to claim government representation and indemnification in response to medical malpractice allegations. That being said, VA doctors are not entirely off the hook in terms of monitoring their own mistakes. The law still requires VA doctors to report medical malpractice when they become aware of it. Failure to do so could result in a doctor being turned over to a state licensing board for discipline, which could result in revocation of the doctor’s medical license. 

Government protection isn't the only thing that can stand in the way of a potential medical malpractice claim, of course. Readers may know that in order to pursue a medical malpractice claim, one must be able to present evidence supporting the existence of a standard of care constituting a legal duty, a breach of duty, and injury resulting from that breach. Also, from a practical point of view, one must be able to afford the expense of pursuing medical malpractice litigation and be confident that the potential payout is worth the costs of pursuing litigation.

In cases where an injured patient is unable to pursue a physician for medical malpractice, whether for legal or for practical reasons, they may still be able to report a doctor for unethical behavior. State medical licensing boards have the task of enforcing the medical code of ethics, so injured patients should familiarize themselves with the process of how to report an unethical doctor to their state’s licensing board.

Source: Disabledveterasns.org, “VA Doctors On Hood For Not Reporting Medical Violations,” August 20, 2014. 

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