Regulating the medical profession: malpractice litigation and physician discipline, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at medical malpractice as one important form of regulation of the medical industry. Malpractice litigation provides regulation of the medical profession through—or with reference to—the court system, even when cases settle outside the adversarial process.

While it is important for injured patients to understand their options when it comes to medical malpractice litigation, it is also important to understand that medical malpractice is often a costly and time-consuming undertaking, and that the potential payoff may not be worth the investment. In cases where it is not, however, an injured patient can still help bring about some justice and obtain some closure by contributing to the physician discipline process.

Every state, of course, has a medical board responsible for admitting, regulating and disciplining physicians. As a recent study highlights, different states have different processes and standards they use for purposes of physician discipline, and this is part of the reason for the varying statistics in this area. While medical boards are not always as responsive to physician misconduct as they should be, filing a detailed complaint with the state medical board is still an important avenue for injured patients to be aware of, particularly when they are unable to pursue medical malpractice litigation.

A legal advocate is not usually necessary for a patient to file complaints with the state medical board, but it can certainly help to have guidance about the process to ensure the medical board is fully informed about the patient’s experience and concerns, and that the information provided is best situated to prompt an effective response.

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