Doctors Keep Practicing Even After Medical Misconduct
It seems as though doctors are not upheld to strict standards even though there are lives at stake. After Dr. Gregory Phillips killed two patients through mismanaging strong prescriptions, he was still allowed to continue practicing medicine. Phillips had already faced the Texas Medical Board on accounts of mismanaging medications and for abusing drugs himself. Still more than four years passed before the board barred Phillips from seeing patients.
Phillips is not the only case where a physician was allowed to continue practicing after severe misconduct. Even though some state boards have become more transparent with their decisions and strict with their regulations, there still seems to be an oversight in the system which allows these “bad” doctors to continue to practice.
USA Today reviewed records from several sources to track how these medical boards function and manage doctors. The results were shocking. Doctors who were banned by hospitals usually kept clean licenses, and those who were cited as “immediate threat to health and safety” continued to practice. From 2001 to 2011, around 6,000 doctors had their clinical privileges restricted or taken away but over 3,000 of those doctors were never fined or hit with suspension. Because health boards often regulate on a reactive basis, they are completely unaware of whether or not a doctor should lose their right to practice or not. Not to mention, these boards are hit with numerous investigations and have tight budgets and resources to spend, making it difficult for them to pursue anything.
When a doctor is threatened, they will fight, and trial can take years to complete if the doctor takes advantage of every hearing or right to trial.
During the investigation of the two patient’s deaths, Phillips was found engaging in “non-therapeutic prescribing” and had no documentation to justify the drugs he prescribed. He was also found refilling drugs early and without documenting the reason. Instead of revoking his license, the board decided on allowing him to work in “administrative medicine” where he would have no patient contact. The board felt confident with this decision considering that if they went to trial, which could take years, that he would be practicing freely the whole time.
Unfortunately, unless more regulating is done by the boards, patients will continue to see doctors without knowing if their lives are at risk.
Source: USA Today, “Thousands of doctors practicing despite errors, misconduct,” Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen.