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Texas medical board fails to discipline negligent doctors

During the past two decades, 58 percent of Texas doctors who have been sanctioned for serious offenses have never been disciplined by the state medical board, according to the nonprofit organization Public Citizen. That means doctors who have been found negligent and liable for medical malpractice such as failure to diagnose, improper performance and failure to treat, have continued to practice medicine without any discipline.

After analyzing 21 years of data in the National Practitioner Data Bank, the organization found that 459 Texas physicians who have been sanctioned by health care institutions have yet to receive any discipline from the Texas Medical Board. A quarter of the 459 physicians have been sanctioned more than once, and nearly half had one or more malpractice reports.

Public Citizen found that part of the problem is short on money and funding, which does not allow for proper investigations. While the board collects $30 million each year in licensing fees, professional fees and fines, it only keeps $10 million. The rest goes to the state, which puts it into the general fund. In response to its findings, the organization has urged Gov. Rick Perry to allow the medical board to keep all of the revenue it generates so it can hire more staff and complete more investigations.

It is important for state medical boards to take appropriate action when a negligent physician has acted in a manner that requires disciplinary measures. The consequences of a physician's actions can be very serious.

In this case, according to the report, approximately a quarter of the sanctioned physicians who haven't been disciplined have been sanctioned more than once. And many of the sanctions were for actions that posed "an immediate threat to the health and safety of patients."

The goal should be to have less malpractice suits because of more careful doctors. It doesn't appear that that will be the case in Texas.

Source: KXAN.com, "Report: Dangerous docs not sanctioned," Aug. 22, 2012

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