Friday, December 26, 2003

South Carolina hides Bad Dr's payments - Shroud of silence puts consumers at risk

Dec. 26, 2003
Secrecy is a fact of life when it comes to medical errors. Few involved want to publicize the mistakes.
"A doctor is typically taking care of 1,000 or 1,500 patients," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group.
Those patients should know if their doctor is making mistakes, Wolfe said. If not, those patients are at risk.

A South Carolina medical malpractice investigation found that:
• Doctors and hospitals make secret deals in S.C. courts to keep cases and the amount doctors pay to victims quiet.
• Hospitals don't always tell patients or their families when a harmful or fatal error has happened. Coroners also are not always told.
• Instead of studying medical mistakes to learn how to prevent them, the S.C. medical profession chooses to keep errors quiet, fearing lawsuits.
• While a federal database keeps track of doctors whose insurance pays claims to victims of medical errors, it keeps the doctors' names secret from the public.

Hospital errors- are often hidden from public view:
When medical errors happen, hospitals don't always admit them, critics say.
For example, when John Theodore, the older brother of former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, died in 1999 at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital, hospital officials told the family Theodore died of "complications," said Andrew Theodore, a nephew and family spokesman.
When the family heard rumors that negligence played a role in John Theodore's death, they sought a meeting with hospital officials, Andrew Theodore said
Andrew Theodore's version of the meeting is this: that only under questioning did hospital officials acknowledge that hospital workers had allowed John Theodore - who had breathing problems - to be without an oxygen monitor during an MRI procedure.
"I said, 'Had the monitor been there, you would have known he was dying and been able to save him?' They said, 'Yes,'‘" Andrew Theodore said.
The family has sued the hospital, alleging negligence on numerous fronts.

Hospitals don't always tell coroners when they've had a possible accidental death. Under S.C. law, coroners can investigate unexplained deaths of healthy people.
Last May, for example, Lexington Medical Center didn't notify Lexington County Coroner Harry Harman that healthy 20-year-old Daniel Enter had died unexpectedly after a minor operation.
Enter's family is suing Lexington Medical, alleging he died because of a broken oxygen machine and hospital negligence.

State Medical boards contribute to the problem of "bad doctors" by lax enforcement and secret (and light) admonitions against offending doctors. For example the S.C. BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS last year took action in 52 cases, seven involving allegations of negligence. In four cases, the board shielded the names of doctors it acted against.
One doctor whose name was withheld was cited for contributing to the death of a patient. He was given a private reprimand and fined $1,000.
The unidentified doctor had "performed surgery that was not medically necessary, which led to patient's eventual demise," the board said.

Untill the names of bad doctors is made public and secrecy of settlements ends, the public will continue to be victimized by bad doctors. Until then it will be up to each patient to research and investigate your doctor