See Our Related Blog investigation about doctors in Georgia practicing without medical malpractice insurance. The investigation, analyzing state data, found that more than 2,500 doctors are doing this in Georgia, including dozens who have been previously disciplined by the state medical board for things like sexual misconduct, drug use, and patient deaths. While 18 other states have laws mandating malpractice insurance or have methods for compensating injured patients, Georgia only encourages doctors to get insurance.
AJC analysed state medical board data that was collected under a 2011 law requiring licensed doctors to inform the board if they have malpractice insurance. There are more than 29,000 licensed doctors in Georgia that provided this information, and 2,536 of them admitted they didn't have insurance. Another 3,000 didn't provide the information. These numbers mean a little less than eight percent of doctors with medical licenses aren't insured.
This is even more worrying because, while some are doing research, teaching, administration or are retired, the investigation did random checks and found more than a dozen still treating patients. And 113 of the approximately 2,500 have been previously sanctioned and nine are currently still on probation. One has a $900,000 malpractice judgment against him, another did several unnecessary surgeries and was disciplined for it, and yet another who is prohibited from treating cancer patients now because several of his patients ended up injured or dead.
This is a major problem because if a doctor commits malpractice and harms a patient, that patient and their family have few to no options to get compensation to help pay for those injuries. The doctor him or herself would still be liable, but that could still leave injured patients with almost nothing depending on the doctor's assets. Dr. Gerald Hickson of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said, "I know of no good way to understand that. I feel very strongly that it's one of our professional duties to be prepared to do the right thing in the face of an adverse event.
There is also another problem in that this information has not been published and Georgians had no way to know about these doctors until the AJC investigation. The 2011 law requires the information be collected when doctors renew their medical licenses every two years and then published online in doctor profiles. But as of yet, this online publishing has not been done. The website still needs updating and that hasn't been funded. Officials hope the information will be available online next year.
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