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Can Doctors Still Practice After a Lawsuit?

April 26, 2023

They sure can.

Healthcare professionals rarely lose their license or are suspended after a patient is successful in a medical malpractice action filed against a healthcare professional.

That’s because state medical boards continue to let thousands of doctors keep practicing medicine after findings of serious misconduct that places patients at risk. And while these doctors have been barred by hospitals and clinics, their medical licenses remain valid.

In fact, studies show that physicians who are disciplined or banned by hospitals frequently keep clean licenses: One study found that nearly 6,000 doctors had their clinical privileges restricted or revoked by hospitals and other medical institutions for misconduct involving patient care; even so, over half (52%) were never fined or received any license restriction, suspension, or revocation by a state medical board.

A USA TODAY review of records from multiple sources, including the public file of the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository set up to help medical boards track physicians’ license records, malpractice payments, and disciplinary actions imposed by hospitals, HMOs, and other institutions that manage doctors showed that even the most severe misconduct can go unpunished. Nearly 250 of the doctors sanctioned by health care institutions were cited as an “immediate threat to health and safety,” yet their licenses still were not restricted or revoked. About 900 were cited for substandard care, negligence, incompetence, or malpractice — but they kept practicing with no licensure action.

Doctors with the worst malpractice records continue to treat patients, and among the nearly 100,000 doctors who made payments to resolve malpractice claims from 2001 to 2011, about 800 were responsible for 10% of all the dollars paid and their total payouts averaged about $5.2 million per doctor. Nonetheless, less than 20% faced any type of licensure action by their state medical boards.

Why Are These Docs Allowed to Keep Practicing Medicine?

One reason not all doctors who lose privileges at a hospital or clinic are required to forfeit their licenses is that doctors or insurers may settle without admitting fault to avoid potentially expensive litigation.

Other issues are the fact that state and federal physician oversight systems can be slow to act, quick to excuse problems, and struggle to manage workloads with tight state budgets. And, as a consequence of no nationwide standard for doctor discipline, these doctors with a revoked license can move and apply for a medical license in a new state.

In sum, a doctor can continue to practice after a medical malpractice lawsuit. A medical malpractice lawsuit usually doesn’t impact the standing of a negligent physician’s license. The purpose of a medical malpractice case isn’t to revoke the doctor’s license but for the patient to get proper compensation for their injuries. A malpractice lawsuit focuses on whether a doctor’s mistake caused a patient to suffer unnecessarily. If so, the suit may seek financial compensation for the following:

• Injuries caused by the negligent act or inaction;
• Treatment and care for those injuries;
• Rehabilitation;
• Hospital stays and doctor appointments;
• The expense of travel to and from medical visits;
• Treatment for any chronic conditions that develop as a result of the negligence; and
• Compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the negligence

Also, a successful malpractice suit is usually paid by the healthcare professional’s insurance company, not the doctor.

If you want to check a doctor’s background in Michigan to make sure he or she hasn’t had any malpractice claims filed against them, you can search the state’s database found here.

Speak With An Experienced Michigan Medical Malpractice Attorney

It’s important to note that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is ending the federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 on May 11, 2023. After that, the special privileges and exemptions extended to out-of-state licensees in Michigan during the pandemic will be discontinued. As a result, beginning May 12, 2023, all health care providers and health facilities operating in Michigan must have the appropriate license(s) and permit(s) required under Michigan and federal law.

For a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after hours, at home, or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!