A recent story in the Virginia-Pilot details the corner that Virginia health care consumers have been painted in:
A decade after a legislative panel found that Virginia allowed dangerous doctors to keep practicing for years before losing their licenses, a national study says the state remains among those least likely to take serious disciplinary action against physicians.
The issue has been thrust back into the spotlight by the case of a Virginia Beach doctor accused of contributing to the deaths of a series of patients during the past five years.
The Virginian-Pilot has documented that 10 patients of Dr. Stephen Plotnick have died since 2004, according to medical board records, civil lawsuits and medical examiners’ reports. At least seven of those were overdose deaths directly traceable to drugs Plotnick prescribed.
What is particularly troubling is that Virginia is a state with one of the most draconian tort reform statutes, limiting recovery in medical malpractice actions to a total of approximately $2 million. That includes everything from pain and suffering to lost wages to future medical bills. A child that is born with serious brain injuries as the result of medical negligence will incur health care costs into the tens of millions of dollars over the course of a lifetime, but in Virginia, even in the most egregious cases of medical negligence the family could only recover $2 million.
Now we learn through the Public Citizen study that the Commonwealth is one of the most lax at disciplining physicians who make errors. If the government won’t protect it’s citizens and private suits through the courts don’t act as a true deterrent, what incentive is there for physicians to come to work each day and practice medicine at the highest level?
This exemplifies why if the government won’t do its job and regulate certain industries and professions there needs to be a strong civil justice system. Unfortunately for the citizens of Virginia, that state has decided that health care providers will not be held responsible in either venue.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.