Transgender Patient Sues After Gynecologic Surgery Goes Awry

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

September 12, 2017

In This Article

State Gives Bad Doctors a Pass, Study Claims

Have Florida regulators been lax when it comes to disciplining doctors with multiple malpractice settlements?

Yes, contends a Health News Florida (HNF) report that aired on public station WUSF News, among other local outlets.[2]

HNF examined publicly accessible information collected by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and then analyzed all reported claims paid by liability insurance companies on behalf of medical doctors and osteopaths between 2000 and 2016. Payments involving hospitals and other medical institutions weren't included in the analysis—and neither were payments for such nonphysician professionals as dentists and pharmacists.

Among HNF's findings:

  • 29 Florida doctors had at least six paid claims—and 14 physicians had 10 or more paid claims.

  • Of the 29 physicians with six or more paid claims, most were in the twilight of their careers, and all except one were men.

  • 25 of the 29 doctors are surgeons, including two ob/gyn surgeons.

  • 18 are still practicing; only three have had their licenses suspended or revoked by the State Board of Medicine.

  • The vast majority of all payments—at least 98%—came from negotiated settlements rather than court awards.

These figures, of course, represent a minority of Florida's approximately 50,000 physicians. Most Sunshine State doctors had no paid claims to report and thus didn't show up in the state database; of those physicians in the database, most had only one paid claim.

HNF acknowledges its analysis should be taken with a grain of salt. One big caution, as doctor groups point out, is that even a string of medical malpractice payouts isn't proof positive of negligence, because insurers often settle claims in order to avoid more costly litigation.

Still, research suggests that the more settlements a doctor has, the more likely he or she is to face future medical malpractice litigation. For this reason, patient advocates and others have asked the state to do more to police the few physician outliers.

"Patients who interact with these physicians usually have no idea that there have been prior issues or problems, and they go into a doctor/patient relationship completely trusting," says Julia Hallisy, founder of the Empowered Patient Coalition. If there's a pattern of mistakes, Hallisy argues, the state needs to take action.

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