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    Bay Area doctors go unpunished for medical errors

    Most San Francisco residents trust their doctors, and why wouldn’t you? They have gone through extensive training to become qualified to diagnose illnesses and advise patients on health-related decisions. Imagine, however, that your doctor got something wrong. Maybe he or she misdiagnosed you and sent you home with the wrong medication, or worse, maybe a surgery was performed incorrectly, leaving you temporarily or permanently injured.

    If you found yourself in this situation, it’s likely that you would consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Additionally, you would expect that the negligent doctor would be reprimanded by the hospital and his or her negligent actions made public so other patients could stay informed. In the Bay Area, however, this practice is not the norm.

    Although medical errors and instances of hospital negligence are supposed to be made public by the California Medical Board, many are not — or there is an unacceptably long delay in the process. After one doctor was penalized for overprescribing vicodin pills — a mistake that caused the death of two young girls when the patient ended up in a car accident after consuming too much vicodin — the error was not made public until four years later.

    Fortunately, a senator from Los Angeles is proposing a bill that would help streamline the process of investigating medical professionals accused of making mistakes. To make this work, the Medical Board of California would have to go through a major overhaul. Right now, it is not working as an agent charged with protecting patients and penalizing negligent medical professionals.

    It is clear to see how patients are being harmed by a medical board that does not operate as it should. Hopefully lawmakers will be receptive to a bill that promotes positive change in the medical error reporting system. In the meantime, patients who are injured by a doctor should know that they have the option to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

    Source: KTVU.com, “State medical board not protecting patients from incompetent doctors,” May 21, 2013

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