Public Database of Doctor Malpractice and Discipline Info Shut Down

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Patient advocacy groups and reporters have lost the use, at least temporarily, of a public federal-database used to research incidents of medical malpractice, discipline and peer actions against doctors.

The National Practitioners Data Bank was pulled off line by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) following a story appearing in The Kansas City Star. The HRSA pulled the public database, which does not include identifying information, after the reporter used the information in the database to help identify a local neurosurgeon by name, which, according to the HRSA, is a violation of the law prohibiting the database from identifying specific doctors.

Advocacy groups and reporters have used the information available in the database – information such as sanctions issued by hospitals, amounts paid out for malpractice claims, and state licensing board discipline information – to bring light to doctors who are not disciplined or allowed to continue to practice medicine even though they may pose a danger to patients and/or have lengthy histories of medical malpractice claims. A letter from the group Public Citizen to HRSA objecting to the removal of the database stated that this type of information is “crucial to patient safety” and helps form “public policy decisions concerning malpractice, tort reform, peer review and medical licensing.”

The HRSA indicated that the database will be down a minimum of six months, but could be down indefinitely unless privacy issues are sufficiently dealt with.

The removal of access to the database’s information is a step back for those advocating for patient safety. However, injured patients are still able to hold negligent doctors responsible for their actions through medical malpractice lawsuits. After experiencing an injury at the hands of a negligent doctor, contact an attorney experienced in helping clients seek compensation through medical malpractice claims.

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