“But He Came Highly Recommended.”

There are some bad doctors out there.  They are what medical malpractice lawyers call “frequent flyers.”  They are careless and incompetent.  They get sued over and over again.  No matter how often they get sued, the Arizona Medical Board keeps on renewing their licenses.

Bad Doctors: Lowry, Thomas P., Reimer, Terry: 9781453810859: Amazon.com: Books

It never ceases to amaze me that these bad doctors keep getting patients referred to them by other doctors.  What is going on?  Don’t the doctors who are referring patients to these bad doctors know what all the malpractice lawyers know?  Do they know and not care?

I think the most charitable and probably most accurate explanation is that the referring doctors don’t know what is going on in the practices of the bad doctors.  They know the bad doctor from the country club or they know her because she has an office down the hall in the same building or they have seen him at medical meetings.  They know that she or he specializes in the kind of medicine this patient needs and that is all they need to know to give the patient the name of the bad doctor.  It is hard enough for doctors to keep track of their own practices without adding the additional burden of keeping track of the practices of all the doctors to whom they might refer patients.

People get recommendations from their friends too and these are far more understandable.  As the old saying goes, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.”  The bad doctors do not kill or maim all their patients.  They may be very charming and may get some good results with some of their patients.  Those patients who got the good result may sing the bad doctor’s praises to the world.  They just don’t know any better.

You, however, should know better than to assume that just because your friend saw Doctor X and got a good result that is a good basis for choosing Doctor X for your treatment.  Do yourself a favor and do some investigating before entrusting your care to any doctor.

Always start at the medical board web site.  Has the doctor been the subject of medical board discipline?  If the doctor has been the subject of medical board discipline, that does not mean that you should avoid this doctor but it is something that bears further inquiry.  By the same token, just because the doctor has not been the subject of medical board discipline does not mean that she or he is a good doctor.

Where did the doctor train?  Was it a good medical school or some foreign, fly-by-night outfit.  Again, some doctors from foreign schools are very good while some from respectable schools are not very good doctors.

Does your doctor specialize in the area you are interested in?  If she does, what training has she had in that area?  Did she do a residency in the area?  Is she fellowship trained in the area?  Doctors are not limited in the areas in which they can practice.  If they have a valid license, they can do almost anything.  We see this a lot in cosmetic surgery where people with no formal training hold themselves out as doing cosmetic procedures.  Beware of these people.

Is your doctor board certified?  You can determine board certification by going to the web site of the American Board of Medical Specialties and entering your doctor’s name.  Board certification requires experience in the area and passing a written and oral examination.  While board certification is no guarantee of a good result, at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that the doctor has some competence in the area.

The last question to ask is whether your doctor has been sued.  The clerk of the court in almost every major county usually maintains a database that can be searched by name.  That is certainly the case here in Maricopa County.  A single suit against your doctor should not be considered disqualifying but does merit further investigation.  More than one suit, however, suggests a real problem.  Look somewhere else for a doctor, if your candidate has been sued more than once.

If you do these basic steps, you will have given yourself the best chance of getting a good result with your new doctor.  If you don’t and it turns out your doctor was a “frequent flyer,” you will have yourself to blame along with the incompetent doctor.

Posted in Arizona Medical Board, Doctors, medical errors, Medical Malpractice, Medical Negligence, Secrecy, Surgical Errors |