In our previous post, we began looking at a recent medical malpractice case resulting in a massive jury verdict, and asked the question of how medical malpractice litigation relates to physician discipline. Although medical malpractice and physician discipline are two separate issues, handled in different forums, there certainly can be a close relationship between the two processes.
The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, of course, has the authority to license and discipline physicians, and state law identifies various grounds upon which the medical board is able to take disciplinary action. The relationship between medical malpractice and physician discipline can be particularly close when the underlying actions or omissions of the physician constitute both medical malpractice and serve as grounds for professional discipline.
One important ground for physician discipline, which can also serve as grounds for medical malpractice, depending on the circumstances of the case, is engaging in unprofessional conduct, including departing from or failing to conform with the minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice. As we mentioned last time, failing to abide by standard medical practice can give rise to medical malpractice liability, and a physician can end up facing both malpractice liability and disciplinary action over the same underlying activity.
An example of this might be a situation where a physician failed to look at a patient’s medical history to determine whether medications the patient is currently taking would be dangerous in combination with a newly prescribed medication. A surgical example might be a situation where a physician fails to carefully read medical records and consequently performs surgery on the wrong body part or the wrong side of the body. The more blatant the error and the more of a pattern of error there is, the more likely a physician is to be subjected to discipline.