Critical Medical Information Kept Secret

Medical malpractice is a serious problem in Georgia and the United States. While limits on recoveries for innocent victims is being pushed by large insurance companies, there are many issues that are being ignored. One is the lack of information available to the public about incompetent doctors and hospitals.
More than 20 years ago, Congress created a federal database to track incompetent and unprofessional health-care practitioners. The database, compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, includes some 460,000 records of malpractice lawsuits whose judgments total $69.7 billion. It includes information on 23,788 patient deaths, 8,100 major permanent injuries and 3,896 cases that resulted in quadriplegics, brain damage or lifelong care.
This is information that is critical to patients selecting doctors and hospitals. However, much of the data is closed to the public. Although the full database is open to hospitals, managed care organizations and state licensing agencies, the public can view only limited information, such as the lawsuit’s allegation and the patient’s health. The doctors’ names remain hidden.
For years, the American Medical Association, an organization supposedly having patient welfare as one of its purposes, has argued that the data bank should remain closed to the public.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe, is a physician and director of the Health Research Group for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. He argues that this information is crucial for the public and that efforts to suppress it are merely intended to protect doctors.
He points out that in the state of Oklahoma alone, the data contains among other things, 28 lawsuits concerning a procedure on a wrong body part with a total of $2.9 million in payments, nine suits concerning sexual misconduct for a total of $166,000 in payments, and three suits concerned assault and battery.
This is information that the public needs to have. Without it, you or a loved one may be unknowingly treated by a doctor who is incompetent or has criminally assaulted a patient.

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