A recent article in the New York Times made the case that our current medical malpractice law are not doing enough to protect patients from doctors who have multiple recorded instances of poor performance. 

A group of researchers from Stanford University decided to study what happens to doctors after claims of medical malpractice were leveled against them. They used multiple databases that track medical malpractice claims and payouts to see what happened afterwards. While their study found some morsels of good news, it also revealed a common disturbing trend among doctors subject to multiple medical malpractice claims. 

On the good side, the researchers found that only about 6% of doctors over a 10-year timeframe had any medical malpractice claims against them. Further, the researchers confirmed that doctors who are the subject of multiple medical malpractice claims do have a higher tendency to end their practices and that it is rare for such doctors to try and move to another state with the hopes of leaving their bad reputations behind them. 

Unfortunately, while doctors involved in multiple medical malpractice cases did exit the medical field at a higher rate than those without any claims against them, researchers found that the number of doctors that do quit may not be high enough. Data showed that 90% of doctors with five or more claims continued working in the healthcare. What’s more, not only did 90% of physicians with five or more malpractice claims continue to work in the healthcare field, they were twice as likely as doctors who had fewer claims against them to start their own medical practices. 

One of the authors of the recent studies explained this by suggesting that these problem doctors are possibly being turned down or forced out by larger healthcare organizations because they are too risky. They also noted that larger healthcare organizations tend to have the time and resources to check into the past of each potential physician they hire, but individual patients may not have the time or knowhow to properly check into the doctors that run a private practice. In this way, doctors who have had troubled past can sometimes continue to operate in the healthcare industry. 

In the end, these studies show that doing a little bit of research before seeing a new doctor can help make sure that your next physician doesn’t have any issues hiding in their past.