Doctors are sworn to protect their patients. They are also subject to ethical rules, both from the American Medical Association and many state medical boards, requiring them to report dangerous or incompetent colleagues. Yet a new study shows that doctors who are aware that their colleagues are not fit to practice medicine do not report this knowledge to the proper authorities. Our experienced Chicago malpractice attorneys are not surprised.
The study was conducted by Catherine DesRoches of Harvard Medical School. In her results, published in the most recent addition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. DesRoches found that of those doctors who were aware of an incompetent or impaired colleague, one-third had not reported the matter to state medical authorities, or even to lower authorities such as hospital boards.
The study participants reported many reasons for their failure to report. Chief among these were a lack of belief that reporting would actually have any positive effect, that they would be subject to revenge or retribution, and that someone else would take care of it. Our medical malpractice attorneys simply cannot countenance this fundamental abdication of a physician’s responsibility to protect patients and the public. These excuses, flimsy from any group, is absolutely unacceptable given the high level of trust and confidence bestowed upon physicians in the United States.
This failure to report is particularly troubling because a report is certainly not a career-ending event for the reported doctor. When reports are made, there are many avenues for assistance for the troubled doctors. Retraining programs are available, as well as treatment programs for those with substance abuse issues. So, not only does reporting have the positive outcome of saving lives and preventing medical malpractice due to incompetence and abuse, it is also a positive event for the reported doctor, who can receive all kinds of treatment, training and assistance. Compared to the guilt of causing an serious injury or death due to the doctor’s negligence, likely resulting in a subsequent lawsuit and possible loss of livelihood and license, or even the doctor’s own death if substance abuse is at issue, retraining and treatment is a very positive outcome, indeed.
At least many doctors are themselves seem concerned by the study’s findings. For example, Dr. Matthew Wynia, who heads the American Medical Association’s Institute for Ethics, was quoted in an editorial accompanying the study as stating that, “I don’t think there’s any excuse for less than 100 percent of physicians holding true to these ideals.” Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers hope that those within the medical profession are taking these problems seriously; we will not accept the status quo.
Perhaps most shockingly, the study found that a mind-numbing seventeen percent of American physicians had direct personal knowledge that another doctor practicing in their workplace was either incompetent or impaired through substance abuse or otherwise. In North Carolina alone, approximately 200 doctors every year are reported for alcoholism, drug abuse, anger-management problems and severe depression interfering with their ability to practice.
When you consider the incredible responsibility wielded by physicians, and the incredible vulnerability of patients, these figures are astounding. It is unsurprising, then, how malpractice rates have risen and the comparative quality of medical care in the United States has declined. We devoutly hope that the U.S. medical profession will soon get its house in order. In the meantime, our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers will be there to seek justice on behalf of those injured by intoxicated or incompetent doctors.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.