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Lessons Learned As 'Doctors Behaving Badly' Tour Ends


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All good things must come to an end, even virtual cross-country tours rooting around in the disciplinary files against doctors who've allegedly done wrong.

Now after looking into the actions taken — or sidestepped — by medical boards in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Reporting on Health's Bill Heisel has some sobering lessons learned.

Before we get to those, though, check out the terrific map, embedded above, that let's you easily find troubling cases across the country.

Now back to the grim task at hand. Most of the doctors in the 51 cases that he spotlighted — 82 percent — are still practicing medicine, the investigation found. Some 290 patients were hurt or died under these physicians' care, Heisel writes. And the problems ranged from alleged sexual attacks to practicing medicine while abusing prescription drugs.

There were, obviously, loads of harrowing details. But Heisel calls out three systematic failures:

  1. States tend to set age limits on the people who can be seen by doctors who've shown a tendency to molest patients. A more prudent course, he says, would be to ban these doctors from seeing patients altogether or to require a chaperone for all.
  2. Many states push problem doctors into areas where patients are particularly vulnerable, such asĀ prisons and poor neighorhoods.
  3. Medical boards are slow to act even when doctors have already been in trouble with the law, including the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Later this week, he promises to put up post on how medical boards and the health system could do a better job at dealing with problem doctors. I can't wait.

Update: Heisel, as promised, has posted some ideas for how state medical boards could improve.

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