The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Passen & Powell believe that one way to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of physician misconduct or medical malpractice is to have access to a doctor’s malpractice history. In Illinois, until recently patients could access, at a minimum, some of the necessary information about potential physicians directly from a state website. In February of this year, however, this information was removed from public access.
The physician profiles were originally posted as a result of a hard-fought political compromise. Once the profiles were posted, the public was able to visit the website of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and view the profile of a physician, from criminal record to malpractice payouts within the past five years to whether the doctor had been fired by a hospital for misconduct.
Not surprisingly, this public service was extremely popular. Although the profiles were only posted for two years, they received millions of views from Illinois residents. Indeed, the profiles were viewed an average of 130,000 times per week during the period in which they were available. Other states where physician profiles are available have similar results. For example, in Florida, the public physician profiles are viewed an average of 800,000 times a year. Our top medical malpractice lawyers encourage all who have access to such profiles to use them.
The explanation for Illinois’ decision to take down such a popular and valuable public website? The answer lies in the political compromise which brought us these profiles to begin with. Medical lobbyists agreed to allow the profiles if and only if damage caps were placed on medical malpractice awards in the state of Illinois. In February, the Illinois Supreme Court wisely and correctly struck down limitations on damages in medical malpractice cases as unconstitutional. But the unfortunate consequence of that decision was the loss of the physician profiles.
What was the “official” reason for discontinuing this valuable state service regarding physician profiles? The explanation given was that maintaining these profiles “wastes” state funds. Our medical malpractice lawyers couldn’t disagree more.
The real explanation is far simpler. These profiles were silenced by special interests – in this case, by the Illinois State Medical Society, an organization whose sole purpose is to lobby for physicians interests. Indeed, these lobbyists have successfully shot down every attempt to revive these profiles which has been made in the past three years.
Indeed, all that remains publicly available from the previous profiles is information concerning whether the physician has been disciplined by the state regulatory agency. But this information is woefully inadequate to enable a patient to make an informed, responsible decision about whether to use a particular physician’s services.
As one example, there is the case of Chicago-area surgeon Nercy Jafari. Dr. Jafari was convicted of sexually abusing a patient. But despite this conviction, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (for some unfathomable reason) chose not to take action against him. Thus, his profile as now displayed on the department’s website is clean.
Our personal injury and wrongful death lawyers are appalled that the interests of negligent doctors – and even criminal doctors – have yet again been placed before the interests of the Illinois public. We add our voice to the chorus of those demanding that the public physician profiles be immediately reinstated. And we applaud such brave legislators as State Representative Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, who continue to work in the public interest, and seek to overcome the lobbyists to make this important information available to the public again.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.