The Virginian-Pilot had an interesting article on Saturday regarding the punishment that the Virginia Board of Medicine gave to a Virginia Beach doctor who had admitted fabricating a patient’s vital signs during minor bunion surgery at Sentara Bayside Hospital. He essentially prewired the oxygen saturation levels and EKG readings in advance of her surgery.
The reason we know of this little short cut is that the patient, a mother of four boys, suffered catastrophic brain injuries during surgery, slipped into a coma and died.
Medical malpractice is the third leading killer in this country behind heart disease and cancer. Most of these deaths are caused by decent doctors who made unintentional medical errors while trying to do the best they could for the patient.
What was the doctor’s defense? Surely, he offered some explanation. The “Virginian-Pilot” (in another article) reported that his answer was that he had seen other doctors do it that way and the patient was otherwise healthy. According to a medical board web site, the doctor also settled a malpractice claim in 1998. Does this surprise anyone?
This doctor simply did not do his job. He didn’t even try. How did the Virginia Board of Medicine respond? They fined him $5,000. He is still licensed to practice medicine in Virginia.
There might be fewer lawsuits if doctors did a better job of policing their own. Say what you will about the ethics of lawyers – and sometimes there is a lot to say – you would not have a licence to practice law after pulling the legal equivalent of this.