Posted by Bill Sandweg on 24 April 2015.
Perhaps like me you saw the news about the office manager at a New York City dentistry practice who operated on patients behind the backs of the dentists in the office. Let’s set aside the question of how she could do that without the dentists in the office noticing. The more important question is how many other people are doing the same thing. As I was doing a little basic research for this post I was quite surprised to find that this is a regular occurrence in the dentistry world. Lots and lots of people are doing dentistry without appropriate licenses and the ones we read about in the news are only the ones who get caught. Although we at Sandweg & Ager do not do dental malpractice cases, this news highlights a problem which often leads to the medical malpractice cases we do take: People who provide medical care for which they are not competent.
The doctors in our system of medical care are divided up into two basic groups. The first are the general or family practice doctors. These doctors generally get paid the least and are generally for that reason in the shortest supply. By far the larger group is made up of the specialists. These doctors are usually more highly trained and have chosen a narrow area of medicine in which to practice. The problem from a medical malpractice standpoint is that there is nothing to stop a doctor from practicing in an area of medicine for which he or she has not been properly trained and in which he or she is not competent. This certainly has the tendency to lead to malpractice and it often does.
The area of specialty in which this occurs most often is cosmetic surgery. There is a lot of money to be made in cosmetic surgery and some doctors who were not trained as cosmetic surgeons follow the money. There is nothing to prevent a dermatologist or an eye doctor or a cardiologist from holding herself out as a cosmetic surgeon. There are many cases in which patients were hurt and it turns out that their “cosmetic surgeon” was never trained in cosmetic surgery at all. At most they may have gone to a weekend course to learn how to do the procedures.
So, how do you protect yourself? You do what you are doing now, you use the internet. You can go to the medical board sites and see what training your doctor has received. I discussed the medical boards as a resource here. One of the most important things to look for is whether your doctor is Board Certified. Almost all areas of medical specialty have organized boards to review doctor credentials to make sure they have the necessary training, to review their cases and to administer tests. You can find a list of boards and information about the process at the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Don’t believe everything a doctor puts on his or her web site about the great results they can get for you. No matter what the area of medicine, make sure your doctor is properly trained and qualified and has not been disciplined for mistakes in the past.