Nov. 16, 2007
A Third of New York’s Worst Repeat Offender Doctors
Continue to Practice Without Licensing Consequences
Statement of Laura MacCleery, Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
We are shocked – but not surprised – by recent revelations that a New York doctor risked exposing more than 600 people to deadly diseases due to a terrible hygiene practice.
While state health officials delayed public release of the information to patients, the state’s medical board also has let this avoidable public health disaster go utterly unaddressed, incredibly finding no evidence of wrongdoing by the anesthesiologist, Dr. Harvey Finkelstein of Plainview, N.Y.
We immediately took another look at the National Practitioner Data Bank, a record of medical malpractice payments. We found that from 1990 to 2007, only a scant third of doctors with 10 or more medical malpractice payouts had a reportable licensure disciplinary action.
That shoddy record of discipline for the worst offenders deserves a close look by state lawmakers. The “I’ll scratch your back” culture in medicine, in which doctors have claimed they are competent to police themselves, must end before more people are killed by criminal negligence.
To add this insult to patients’ injuries, rather than moving swiftly to address the problem with a subpoena, the state health department took months to negotiate a voluntary agreement from Finkelstein to release patients’ names. Health officials must change their lax attitude and adopt an enforcement mentality, particularly when lives are at stake.