Medical Malpractice Database Reopened to the Public With Restrictions
By Jim Lewis, Virginia Medical Malpractice Attorney
Our firm recently expressed concerns about the decision of a federal agency to remove a public database that allows citizens to find medical malpractice lawsuits brought against doctors.
It’s only right that the federal Health Resources and Services Administration has now reopened public access to information on malpractice settlements and disciplinary action taken against poor performing doctors, but there are still access concerns.
The database is still not as open as it was in the past. Under a new data use agreement, publicly available information from the National Practitioner Data Bank cannot be reposted or used in combination with other information to identify a doctor, FederalTimes.com reports.
The online public file was removed on September 1, 2011, after a Kansas City Star reporter used information to track down the identity of a doctor with a long record of malpractice cases against him but was never disciplined by the state. Under the new arrangement, if HRSA learns data has been used to identify a doctor, it will ask that the data be returned, according to HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield.
As experienced Virginia medical malpractice attorneys, my colleagues and I are concerned by any move to prevent individual doctors being identified by patients who could end up as victim. Recently, we noted how for more than a quarter century this data bank used by insurers, medical boards and hospitals to find out if a doctors have been disciplined or had medical malpractice awards against them has been accessible to the public as well as the media. It’s regrettable that in an era of more advanced information technology, patients should end up with less.
Access to medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors could help avoid some of the harrowing cases we deal with. For instance, attorneys with our firm have represented clients such as a 61-year-old Virginia woman in a case heard in the Newport News Circuit Court who lost both of her legs after botched back surgery. The case settled for $1.25 million.
When doctors make mistakes, the consequences can be very serious. It’s only right for the public to know of their past mistakes before opting for surgery.
About the Editors: The VA-NC medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton include medical and surgical malpractice lawyers licensed in both Virginia and Carolina. Our medical/hospital malpractice focus on personal injury and accident law and have experience handling medical malpractice cases involving hospital and doctors’ mistakes, as well as nursing home abuse and neglect. Check out our case results to see our track record of success in medical malpractice lawsuits, and also be sure to read our free medical malpractice reports Top 10 Tips From a Medical Malpractice Insider and Top 5 Surgical Errors. Rick Shapiro and James Lewis have been listed among the Best Lawyers in America since 2008. They, along with fellow attorney John M. Cooper, have also been named Virginia Super Lawyers since 2010, an honor fewer than 5 percent of outstanding attorneys receive.