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Patients: report your doctor for unethical behavior

Medical malpractice is an important means of recovery for patients who suffer significant injury as a result of their doctor’s negligence. Medical malpractice litigation, however, is not always possible for injured patients. In some cases, there may have been medical error which doesn’t rise to the level of violating an established standard of medical care. In other cases, a medical standard of care may have been violated, but the injury isn’t significant enough that pursuing a case would yield enough damages to justify the potential costs and time commitment of litigation.

Whatever the reason for the inability to pursue medical malpractice litigation, it is important for injured patients to realize that they have the ability to hold their doctor accountable by ensuring the state medical board is aware of any improper behavior from the standpoint of ethics rules. Doctors who fail in their ethical duties can and should be disciplined. Penalties range from warnings to license suspensions and revocations. Injured patients can in this way play a role in ensuring unethical doctors are held accountable. 

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the system depends on state medical boards following through and taking steps to discipline doctors appropriately. Some state medical boards do an overall excellent job at this, while others do not have as good of a track record.

Minnesota is among a group of states whose medical boards impose the fewest disciplinary actions on physicians. Sources are not clear as to whether this is because of the nature of the violations or because the board is just soft in the task of enforcement, but it is probably fair to say that some improvement of the system could help.

Despite this, patients who have been harmed should be aware not only of their right to pursue medical malpractice litigation, but also of the possibility of filing a complaint with the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice. It can help to work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney when preparing a complaint, both to help clarify the unethical behavior at issue and to determine whether medical malpractice may be an option.

Source: Medscape.com, “Medical Boards Are Too Lax; Payment for Pain and Suffering; More,” Wayne J. Guglielmo, October 17, 2014. 

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