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Study Shows Doctors Who Lose Hospital Privileges Often Escape Discipline

A Florida doctor had his hospital privileges permanently revoked and was reported for medical malpractice 10 times for performing an unnecessary procedure (leaving a foreign body in a patient) and misdiagnosing a patient's condition. Two of the doctor's patients died. Despite this, no action has been taken against this doctor's license by the state of Florida. An isolated occurrence, perhaps? Unfortunately, not. According to a recent study reported by, 55 percent of the doctors who had their privileges revoked or limited escaped any type of discipline from state licensing boards.

According to the nonprofit public interest group, Public Citizen, almost 6,000 of the approximately 11,000 doctors who had their hospital privileges limited or revoked from 1990 to 2009 had no licensing actions taken against them by state medical boards. The revocation or limitation of hospital operating privileges is a critical evaluation of a doctor's fitness to practice medicine. These decisions are made by fellow doctors who practice in the same health care facilities as the doctors who are under review.

Sadly, the research revealed that more than 50 percent of doctors with curtailed hospital privileges received no further disciplinary review in many states. The states with the worst records of medical board review included but not limited to California, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Texas. A representative of Public Citizen noted that the research revealed one of two things: Either the state medical boards have the information and are ignoring it, or they are simply not receiving the information.

Public Citizen has forwarded its report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and requested that the federal government reinstitute its investigations of state medical boards, something it has not done since 1993. In the interim, it seems that in most states, other than doctors policing themselves through the restriction of hospital privileges, there is little oversight of doctor competence after doctors receive their initial medical licenses from the state. If you believe that you or a family member has been injured by the negligence of a health care provider, consult with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice law.