Most States Fail to Properly Discipline Negligent Physicians, According to Public Citizen

Most states are not fulfilling their obligation to provide protection to patients from doctors who practice sub-standard medicine, partly because of cuts in state budgets, according to an annual ranking of state medical boards by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.

When medical boards do not discipline negligent doctors, they are not carrying out their mission to protect patients. There were 3.06 serious actions taken by medical boards in 2011 for every 1,000 physicians. This rate is down about eighteen percent, compared with the rate in 2004. One of the major causes of the decline is state budget problems. Simply put, shrinking financial resources mean less support for medical boards.

According to Public Citizen’s research, some of the worst states are South Carolina, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Nevada, and New Jersey.

Wyoming was the best at disciplining physicians with 6.79 serious actions taken for each 1,000 doctors. This rate is five times higher than South Carolina’s. In addition to Wyoming, some of the highest discipline rates are in Ohio, Louisiana, Delaware, New Mexico, Alaska, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Washington, according to Public Citizen’s research.

Of course, it is important to know how well funded and effective one’s state medical board is, but patients must also make careful decisions when selecting a doctor. Today, because of the vast amounts of information available on the Internet, it is possible to do careful research into a doctor’s background before selecting him or her as your doctor.

It is an important public health protection for state medical boards to discipline negligent doctors when necessary, and to have those interactions carefully documented, so the public can find the records. Patients can also take advantage of websites with user-generated content posted by individuals who have reported on their direct experience with various physicians. Having a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can also be an advantage when someone has suffered as a result of medical negligence.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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