Posted by Bill Sandweg on 05 December 2018.
Many times I have recommended using the resources available to you to learn about your doctor before you allow him or her to make decisions that may affect you for the rest of your life. At a minimum, you should look your doctor up on the web site of the Arizona Medical Board. There is a lot of good information there about where the doctor went to school and what their area of medical specialty is. You can also learn whether the doctor has been disciplined in the state of Arizona or not. Unfortunately, there is a lot you cannot learn from a visit to the web site of the Arizona Medical Board.
Discipline in other states. You can’t learn whether the doctor was disciplined in another state. All too often doctors are allowed to get in trouble in one state and then just move on to another with the public being none the wiser. Here is a story from USA Today about the practice. It amazes me that an entity charged by the state with protecting the public from bad doctors will allow a doctor who had to give up her license in another state to come to Arizona and just start over clean. The public has a right to know.
As the USA Today article points out, you can inquire in other states, if you know your doctor practiced in another state and you know the name of that state. As it also points out, there is a national clearinghouse which is supposed to have information about all doctors who have been disciplined in any state. However, clearinghouses like this only work if every state is diligent about reporting its bad apples and many are not. A doctor may also negotiate an agreement not to report his misconduct in return for an agreement to voluntarily surrender his license to practice.
Malpractice History. When visiting the site of the Arizona Medical Board, you also cannot find out if your doctor has committed malpractice and has paid to settle malpractice claims. That information is reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank but it is not available to the public. You can find out if your doctor has been sued by checking the web sites of the Superior Court for your county but that won’t tell you whether the case settled or whether the doctor paid money or not. As I wrote earlier in the week, doctors always insist on a Non-Disclosure Agreement when paying to settle malpractice claims so the public will not know that they have paid on a claim.
Doctor’s Experience. You also will not be able to get any information from the Medical Board about the experience of your doctor. Does she do these procedures often? What training and experience does she have after leaving medical school or her residency that qualifies her to treat you and your problem? There is nothing that prevents an eye doctor from deciding she can make more money in plastic surgery and holding herself out as a plastic surgeon, even though she has no training in that specialty. You only find out about this and other experience questions by asking the doctor. Don’t be shy. Better to find out the doctor’s qualifications and experience before you get hurt than after.
Be an informed consumer. It won’t guarantee you won’t be the victim of medical malpractice but it will give you the best chance of avoiding it.