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System makes it difficult for patients to track bad doctors

According to an investigation by Consumer Reports, there are thousands of doctors practicing in the U.S. who have been disciplined for serious errors and ethics violations, but it is difficult for patients to find out if their physician is one of them. However, the same report found that North Carolina has one of the top state medical board websites in the country, which makes it slightly easier to investigate physician performance records.

For its investigation, Consumer Reports contacted the California medical board for a list of all state physicians on probation as of September 2015. The list showed that approximately 500 doctors had been disciplined for offenses such as medical malpractice, sexual misconduct and practicing while under the influence of drugs. For example, one doctor was accused of removing the wrong ovary during a surgical procedure, while another on-duty doctor was arrested for drunk driving.

Through a survey, Consumer Reports found that 82 percent of Americans want to be notified if their doctors are on probation. Unfortunately, only doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, law enforcement and a few other entities are allowed access to the national database that lists disciplinary and malpractice claims against doctors. However, people can search their state medical board websites for information about doctors. Consumer Reports rated all 50 websites for ease of use, and North Carolina was ranked as the fifth-best in the country.

Patients who are harmed by medical professional negligence often face high medical expenses and lengthy recovery periods. They may want the help of a lawyer in seeking compensation for those and other losses.

Source: Consumerist, "From Malpractice To Doctoring Under The Influence, You'll Have A Difficult Time Finding Your Physician's Disciplinary History," Ashlee Kieler, March 29, 2016

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