Beginning in May of 2009, the public will be able to go to a website, search for physicians’ files, and take a very close look at the history of that doctor. This same information is already available for some 1300 Colorado physicians, but is about to include the remaining 2000 doctors, thanks to CO HB 1331 (the Michael Skolnick Medical Transparency Act,) which requires doctors registering in Colorado to make professional disciplinary action public. But the data files won’t stop with that.
If a doctor’s privileges are revoked at a hospital, you’ll know about it. If a license has been suspended in any state in the Union, by the law, the physician must report that fact. If a MD lets a state license lapse, that is known. Hospital affiliations, suspensions of DEA license, whether or not they’re involved in a medi-spa or other treatment center, if they’ve been convicted of a felony or a crime of “moral turpitude,” if they’ve been turned down for malpractice insurance due to past claims, and if they’ve ever paid a final claim on a malpractice suit.
Some of this may be disturbing. It should be. Ambulance chaser lawyers will file a malpractice suit at anyone anywhere near a case who looks like they might have money… and paying them would become part of your public record.
The case that started this all off is perfect proof of how bad an idea this is. The grief-stricken parents of a young man who had brain surgery claim that the surgeon himself is responsible for the death of their son, even though the horrible events leading up to his death occurred months after the procedure was performed. The man’s parents claims that the surgery was not necessary (though their qualifications for that statement are unclear.) His mother says that if she had known the doctor had a (singular) malpractice claim, she would not have allowed her son to have the operation. But colleagues of the surgeon say he is an excellent doctor. One went so far as to say that he’s “the finest neurosurgeon I ever worked with.” It is an unfortunate fact that people will judge these physicians by the small negative which may not even have been their fault, while going unaware of the thousands of patients the same physician heals every year.
With such laws coming up, it’s all the more important that your professional malpractice insurance include a strong defense policy, and that you be allowed to determine whether or not you choose to settle on a claim. Even if the state you’re in now has no such requirements, there’s nothing to say that it won’t become law in the near future.