N.C. Medical Board takes a positive step

N.C. Medical Board takes a positive step

Both the legal profession and the medical profession are to a certain degree self-regulating.  They both have non-governmental, independant bodies that establish rules, guidelines and professional ethics for their members.  However, the organization governing lawyers, the North Carolina State Bar, has been far more active historically in disiplining its members than the corresponding medical organization.  Recently however, that organization, the N.C. Medical Board, has taken a positive step to share consumer information with the public. 

Under new rules recently approved, they will post malpractice payouts on its Web page, www.ncmedboard.org, starting in fall 2009. According to this article, included will be:

SETTLEMENTS, VERDICTS AND JUDGMENTS OF AT LEAST $25,000. The board originally proposed posting all payouts, but doctors argued that amounts less than $25,000 reflect so-called "nuisance lawsuits" that they say are often settled for expediency rather than merit. The medical board determined that 90 percent of payouts would still be reported.

MALPRACTICE PAYOUTS SINCE OCT. 1, 2007. By adding each year after that start day, the Web site eventually will maintain a payout history that will go back seven years.

KEY DATES, including when the incident occurred and when the payout was made. The information will not identify patients.

WHETHER THE CASE LED TO DISCIPLINE, based on the board’s review of the care that prompted the legal action.

AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLAIN. Doctors and physician assistants who have made payouts can give a brief statement about the circumstances of the case.

One fear has been that publishing settlement information would discourage future settlements that until now, typically have been confidential between the parties.  However, the N.C. Medical Board has reviewed this practice implemented by other state medical boards and found no evidence that it has a chilling effect on settlements.

In my opinion, the more the N.C. Medical Board does in releasing negative information about its members and holding them to a higher standard, the more likely it is that medical malpractice, and medical malpractice lawsuits, will decrease.