The Secret World of Feeble Doctor Discipline
“We found that well over 90% of the cases were very serious offenses. Doctors who have been convicted of crimes, doctors who have sexually abused patients … doctors who misrepresent or over-prescribe drugs.” (Sidney Wolfe MD, The Health Research Group)
A physician who performed 10,000 unnecessary eye operations on homeless patients in order to bilk Medicare, is among the 250,000 doctors listed in the National Practitioner Data Bank files. And the watchdog group Public Citizen believes you – as a vulnerable patient – have a right to know who they are.
We adamantly agree.
But the U.S. government and the American Medical Association believe you have no right to know who is in those secret files, and you have no right to know what they did to get there.
“It is unconscionable that as consumers we have more comparative information about the used car we purchase or the snack foods we eat, than the doctors in whose care we entrust our health and well-being.” (Virginia Republican Representative Thomas Bliley)
According to Public Citizen, thousands of physicians in the NPDB files have been found guilty of crimes ranging from insurance fraud to sexual assaults to murder – and yet continue to treat patients behind closed doors with the approval of state medical boards. The nonprofit organization believes patients have a right to know if their own doctors have been convicted of crimes. So they have – for 15 years – urged Congress to agree, and pass laws making such information available.
As far back as the year 2000, Public Citizen, published a book naming 20,125 physicians who had received at least some level of punishment for serious misbehavior. They listed them under the categories of either “Dangerous” or “Questionable.”
Doctor Sidney Wolfe, President of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said this in a news conference following the book’s publication:
“These, in my view, are quite serious. Yet fewer than half the cases resulted in serious disciplinary actions. The majority of doctors disciplined for even serious crimes never even temporarily stopped treating patients.”
Doctor Wolfe reports that the National Practitioner Data Bank – which holds files on discipline, malpractice and other crimes sent to them by medical boards and hospitals – should be transparent.
“This information belongs to the public,” Wolfe states
The American Medical Association, which represents about half of America’s 750 000 doctors, has always been against. the public knowing who bad doctors are.
“It is inexcusable for the AMA to take the patronizing position that patients won’t really understand this information,” is Doctor Sidney Wolfe’s response.
A sample of some of the physicians still treating patients after feeble reprimands:
- Doctor Frederick Reed of Charleston, South Carolina who was fined $3,000 and reprimanded for putting an amputated human foot into a crab trap.
- Doctor Bruce Copeland Raymon of Pensacola, Florida, who was fined $6,000 and required to take 5 hours of medical education after he surgically removed the wrong side of a patient’s head.
- Doctor Stephen H. Ware of Corpus Christi Texas, who had a temporary restriction placed on his license after admitting to the state medical board to having sexual relations with 16 patients.
“You have to ask yourself, would you go to these doctors? The punishments are just not adequate,” Wolfe said.