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Jan. 28, 2003

Public Citizen Calls on Arkansas Medical Board to Investigate "Repeat Offender" Doctors

Eight Doctors Have Lost or Settled Four or More Malpractice Cases But Have Not Been Disciplined; Lack of Discipline a Factor in Malpractice Premium Spikes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today urged the Arkansas State Medical Board to investigate eight doctors who have lost or settled four or more malpractice cases but have not been disciplined.

The letter was sent the same day that Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook testified before Arkansas lawmakers about rising medical malpractice insurance premiums in the state. Rising premiums are not caused by the legal system but instead are related to cyclical economics, she said. Further, the state’s real malpractice crisis – preventable deaths and injuries – is linked to unreliable medical care and a lack of doctor oversight and discipline, Public Citizen found in a report released Monday (available at www.citizen.org).

Between September 1990 and September 2002, 2.6 percent of Arkansas’ doctors made two or more malpractice payouts worth a total of $48.9 million in damages. These represented 43.7 percent of all payments made, according to information obtained from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank.

"If medical boards are unwilling or unable to seriously discipline doctors with multiple malpractice payouts, the terrible human and financial costs will continue to lead to preventable deaths and injuries," Claybrook said. "These repeat offenders are a significant factor in the malpractice situation facing the state."

Doctors who are repeat offenders suffer few consequences in Arkansas. Only 14 percent of the doctors who made three or more malpractice payments had been disciplined as of September 2002, information in the National Practitioner Data Bank shows. Of the 153 physicians in Arkansas who have made two or more payments to patients for malpractice since 1990, only 15 had been disciplined.

In the letter to the board, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, listed details pertaining to the doctors but did not name them because their identities are not publicly available. However, the medical board can access the doctors’ names, even though the public can’t.

Click here to read the letter.

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