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How the healthcare system may cause harm – Part VIII

When medical errors occur in New York City, the tendency may be to give the doctors involved the benefit of the doubt given their perceived knowledge and expertise. Such an assumption, however, overlooks the fact that there are practicing doctors out there who may be engaged in negligent or flat-out dangerous practices. While the overall number of dangerous doctors may be few, their impact can be far-reaching. The AARP Bulletin reports that one percent of doctors in the U.S. account for almost 33 percent of all medical malpractice claim rewards.

Just what exactly may constitute dangerous conduct? The New York Department of Health lists several definitions. Some may be relatively obvious, such as practicing medicine fraudulently, falsifying reports or records, continuing to practice with a suspended or revoked license or after having been found guilty of professional misconduct. Others may allow for some degree of interpretation, such as demonstrating gross negligence or incompetence, or offering services beyond one’s authorized scope or the accepted standard of care. Specific examples of misconduct include:

  • Being a habitual user of alcohol or narcotics and hallucinogens, as well as practicing while under the influence of such substances.
  • Exercising undue influence over a patient for financial gain.
  • Delegating patient care responsibilities to one who is not authorized to perform such services.
  • Physically or emotionally harassing, intimidating or abusing a patient.
  • Abandoning a patient in need of care.
  • Any conduct that demonstrates a moral unfitness to practice medicine.

Patients who believe that they have been the victims of dangerous conduct should report their concerns to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct through the Department of Health. Healthcare professionals aware of misconduct by their peers are required by law to report it or risk sharing in liability as well.


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