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Analysis reveals minimal consequences for many negligent doctors

Most people visit medical practitioners to find solutions for health issues or to manage ongoing conditions. While most clinicians are trustworthy and provide their patients with excellent service, negligent doctors can make devastating mistakes, some of which may have long-lasting or fatal results.

Readers in Albuquerque may be intrigued by a new state journal study that suggests that some doctors may not be receiving appropriate discipline for serious medical errors. The analysis looked at 218 medical board discipline cases from 2010 to 2012, as well as a significant number of incidents in which the board did not become involved in a punitive manner.

One particular example of negligence took place in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, in 2010, when a mother of four underwent minor surgery to remove abnormal tissue from her cervix. To stem the ensuing bleeding, the doctor injected epinephrine into his patient. Unfortunately, the dose administered was 100 times more than what it should have been. The erroneous injection led to a cascade of catastrophic systemic events, which ultimately led to the woman's death.

When he was brought before the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board the following year, the doctor simply received a reprimand, along with a $1,200 fine. He was also instructed to take two classes. Although the reprimand was placed on his record, his practice was not limited.

The Wisconsin State Journal subsequently found that similar reprimands had been used on a minimum of 50 cases in the 2010 to 2012 period, including in events that caused patients to lose their lives or become injured. Reprimands were also issued for much less serious infractions, including the creation of ambiguous sick notes for state Capitol protestors in 2011.

For victims of medical errors, lingering health problems and medical expenses can be devastating. Families of deceased individuals also often find it difficult to cope economically and emotionally after loved ones die due to medical malpractice. Although monetary compensation cannot replace the life lost as the result of a medical mistake, a successful lawsuit may provide a victim's family with significant financial aid.

Source: LaCrosseTribune.com, "Wisconsin doctors often escape serious discipline," David Wahlberg, Jan. 28, 2013

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