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Palm Beach Post

Stop bad doctors from serving as "experts"

William Large Contributed

Published 7 am ET Oct. 11, 2021 

William Large 

William Large, President, Florida Justice Reform Institute. Contributed

The Post’s recent editorial “Before more children are maimed, Florida needs to weed out bad doctors” makes some important points, but leaves out a few others.

A lawsuit and an administrative complaint, to revoke a doctor’s license, for example, are separate actions and one does not preclude the other. Unfortunately, the Post’s own reporting behind the editorial discovered that in several cases, “none of these allegations generated disciplinary complaints to the state Department of Health.”

Just like in a lawsuit, prosecuting an administrative complaint requires claimants to share medical records and testimony with the Department of Health and the Board of Medicine. Claimants often fail to do so, perhaps under the direction of their lawyers, because they can leverage dropping the complaint to obtain a bigger payout in the civil lawsuit. We can’t know for sure because these settlements are often confidential. Either way, once a claimant becomes uncooperative, the prosecutor is left with few options to move the complaint any further.

Interestingly, despite the lack of formal complaints, the Post was still able to easily find numerous on-the-record examples of one doctor’s malpractice.

Why then, as the Post also reported, were claimant’s lawyers also ignoring those red flags and frequently paying that same doctor as an expert witness to testify against his more competent, ethical colleagues? In fact, so many lawyers in Broward and Palm Beach counties had used this doctor as an expert witness, the Post reported, one victim could not even find a lawyer without a conflict who would take her case.

This practice of claimant’s lawyers using certain doctors with dubious records as experts on proper standards of care is not an isolated practice, and this rank hypocrisy should not be overlooked.

There are bad doctors out there and they should be stopped from practicing medicine, and in some cases that’s not happening. As we engage in the conversation to seek solutions, let’s be sure to acknowledge and address all the contributing factors to the problem the Post outlines.

William Large is president, Florida Justice Reform Institute.