An article was published last month by the Wall Street Journal detailing the latest study on medical malpractice. The study, conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, found a shocking statistic showing that only 1 percent of physicians cause 32 percent of all medical malpractice claims made in the last 10 years.
This 1 percent may look like a good number for some. After all, 1 percent is so low! Wrong. This means that only 1 percent of licensed doctors are negligent and cause one third of all the injuries that lead to medical malpractice claims because very little is done to hold these doctors accountable, so they continue to practice and injure more patients.
Why Isn’t More Done to Prevent Negligent Doctors From Harming Patients?
The New England study took a look at roughly 66,000 medical malpractice claims made against roughly 54,000 doctors for nine years (2005-2014). The study found the small number of dangerous doctors all had “distinctive characteristics” that separated them from the rest of the relatively safe doctors. For example, the study found many dangerous doctors all had multiple previous medical malpractice claims filed against them. That said, if these doctors share distinct characteristics that indicate consistent negligence, why don’t state medical boards factor that in and begin ridding the health care system of dangerous doctors?
Turns out, the New England study drew from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which stores information on medical malpractice. It was established by Congress to assist the state licensing boards. While the database does give information on each doctor’s medical malpractice cases, it does not list the doctors by name. Instead, they are assigned a random number, which renders the notion of actually holding these doctors accountable impossible.
Though, it’s worth noting that even if the doctors could be listed by name in the data found by the New England med mal study, the public would still be unable to access the records by law.
The National Practitioner Data Bank Needs to Be Open to the Public
When a patient is sitting in their doctor’s office, they have no idea what kind of background the doctor who is treating them has. It could be the doctor is competent and experienced. Or, it could be the very opposite and the patient is being treated by a dangerous doctor with a long history of medical malpractice claims who just hasn’t been held accountable.
Patients deserve transparency. The National Practitioner Data Bank should be made public so that patients know exactly who is treating them and whether their doctors have a history of negligence. These are people’s lives and well-being. If the information were made public, it is more likely state licensing boards would be more inclined to use harsher enforcement for repeat offenders and work to hold negligent doctors accountable.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32