Does My Doctor Practice Safe Medicine?

medical person with clipboard“If I had only known my doctor had a history of making mistakes!”

That is one of the most common tales we hear from our clients these days. When we tell clients that we have sued a particular doctors ‘X’ number of times, they often wish they would have known beforehand and made a different choice. While most doctors do practice safe medicine, the public should be able to find out which doctors may be more prone to making serious, and potentially life threatening, mistakes.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get good feedback about physicians practicing in Maryland. One potential resource is the Maryland Board of Physicians website. Here, one can look up information concerning any physician practicing in the State of Maryland. The website is supposed to report settlements and judgments in excess of $150,000.00, in addition to disciplinary alerts. However, just based on our litigation history, we know that the information on the Board’s website is incomplete.

For example, there is a particular obstetrician we have sued more than three times. One of the cases resulted in a verdict in excess of $2,000,000.00. The other two cases resulted in substantial six and seven figure settlements. Yet, if you look the physician up on the Board’s website it does not list anything under settlements and judgments.

The Board’s website also posts “Disciplinary Alerts”. On this page you can see a list of all of the doctors who have had their licenses recently revoked or suspended.

Another potential resource for finding out about your doctor is the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website. On this website you can put in your doctor’s name to see if he or she has ever been sued before. Many of the cases are coded by “case type” and so if you see your doctor’s name listed under a “Medical Malpractice” case then you can safely assume that your doctor has been sued.

The problem with the Judiciary Case Search website is that all you can see are docket entries regarding the case – and they do not provide much information. If you truly wanted to know the allegations in the case, you would need to go the courthouse and pull the case file. This should change in the future, as the Maryland court’s are moving in the direction of electronic case filing. Although, it is not clear at this point whether the public will be able to access court filings in medical malpractice cases.

Other websites provide anonymous grades and ratings for physicians. But those websites do not provide much reliable information either.

Then there is the National Practitioner’s Data Bank. Health care providers are required by law to report any settlements and judgments in excess of $150,000.00 to this organization. But the Data Bank is not open to the public. There have been lawsuits filed in the past to allow the public to view the Data Bank, but those attempts have been unsuccessful.

It is unfortunate that there is such little transparency in medicine. If hospital and doctors were able to police themselves better there would probably be fewer malpractice cases.

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