Almost two years ago, a Tennessee native went to his doctor for a spinal fusion, which is a routine neurosurgery procedure. The doctor performing the procedure cut into one of the spinal arteries, which caused a massive bleed. When the patient woke up, the man could not move his arms and legs. He will have to live out the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.
Rather than running scans and tests to figure out what could be done to help the man’s condition, that doctor moved onto another patient and ignored the problem. A different surgeon who went back in to fix the error in the patient’s spine was horrified at how botched the procedure was.
The doctor who botched the procedure went on for one year before the medical board recently revoked his license to practice medicine. During this time, the doctor appears to have intentionally mangled all but a handful of his surgeries, injuring many, paralyzing five and killing two patients. The doctor was described by his peers as a sociopath because it seemed like he knew exactly what he was doing and none of the mistakes that injured his patients were accidental. Court records show both longstanding complaints filed by other doctors against him, as well as statements of alleged drug and alcohol abuse that were all kept quiet.
So the question of why he was allowed to continue practicing medicine for a whole year, and devastate many people’s lives while doing so, remains.
Tennessee’s Board of Medical Examiners Does Not Act Quickly Enough to Address complaints
The News Channel 3 WREG investigated and found three years of physician discipline, or lack thereof. The investigation found tax crimes, federal indictments, loosely prescribed pain medication and doctor negligence for nearly 40 doctors in the Memphis area. These doctors are only listed because they have already received disciplinary action, whether that’s probation, suspension or revoking the doctor’s medical license.
However, when a complaint is filed, it is not made public. The only way the complaint is made public is if (and that’s a big “if”) the doctor actually receives disciplinary action. Worse still, state auditors released a Nashville report that showed investigations into complaints made against doctors can run years behind. The audit went on to show out of 21 complaints, more than half of the investigations did not finish in time.
What Do These Late Disciplinary Investigations Mean to Patients?
Ultimately, doctors cannot receive any discipline from the Board of Medical Examiners until after an investigation is complete. This means a negligent doctor can continue practicing medicine and performing procedures on patients for the year it takes to conduct an investigation into the doctor’s pre-misconduct.
This puts patients at risk for botched procedures and doctor negligence. Unless a doctor directly tells the patient there is an open investigation for misconduct (which is highly unlikely), there is no way for the patient to know the doctor has botched prior procedures. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners needs to make the investigation of complaints against medical professionals public. Patients deserve to know the type of doctor they are receiving care from.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” Isaiah 41:10