Here is my first OMG moment of the week, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. See if you agree with me:
A 5-year-old girl needed surgery to fix a muscle in her left eye.
But Dr. David E. Braverman mistakenly operated on her right eye. And then he tried to cover up his error.
He told her mother that the right eye was bleeding and also needed surgery. She consented. The girl had to be put under anesthesia again. A breathing tube was reinserted. Braverman went back in to do the intended procedure on the left eye.
Later, Braverman altered the girl's charts to justify both surgeries.
The incident went to the state Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, a panel appointed by the governor whose mission is to protect the public.
The botched surgery at Children's Mercy Hospital in a Kansas City suburb in 2003 was another mark on a career that has included at least $2 million in malpractice payments in nine cases, mostly involving diagnosis and treatment errors of children in Kansas and Missouri.
The board let Braverman, a pediatric ophthalmologist, keep practicing without missing a day of seeing patients. His penalty: a reprimand in his file for the Children's Mercy incident. The board won't say whether it investigated any of the other allegations of substandard care.
Sorta says it all about where we are on medical malpractice these days. Horrible malpractice continues at epidemic levels (see Center for Justice & Democracy’s new fact sheet here). State disciplinary board doing absolutely nothing to properly police the small number of physicians responsible for most of it (as we've noted before), especially repeat offenders. And lawsuits are dropping precipitously (see CJ&D's fact sheet mentioned above).
Here’s some other things of note about Missouri, where this occurred. There has been a “cap” on compensation for patients, as well as other tort restrictions, since the mid-1980s. This has most likely endangered the lives of patients. And as far as medical malpractice insurance rates, these “caps,” while harming the most seriously-injured patients, have made no difference for doctors. A study last year from Americans for Insurance Reform compared Missouri and Iowa, two neighboring states. Iowa has never had a cap. In the last five years studied by AIR, Missouri’s pure premium increased 1 percent, while Iowa’s dropped 6 percent.
Not that this should be news to anyone. But is anyone listening anymore?