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Looking at the relationship between medical malpractice and physician discipline

Medical malpractice, unfortunately, is one of the risks and challenges physicians have to deal with in their practice, and the potential liability from malpractice claims can be significant. It can also have a significant impact on a physician’s career.

A Hennepin County medical malpractice verdict of $9.1 million delivered earlier this month was reportedly one of the largest in recent history in Minnesota. The case was brought by a man who was left with spinal cord damage and paralysis back in 2012 from a botched surgery at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.

According to the man’s attorney, he initially went to the hospital for flu-like symptoms, for which he was given fluids to treat dehydration, but was recommended to have surgery after providers discovered a back injury. According to the man’s complaint, the providers in charge of his care stopped giving him fluids an hour before surgery and started him on anesthesia, which resulted in reduced blood pressure and lack of blood flow to his spinal cord. The hospital denied the allegations, and it isn’t clear yet whether it will appeal the recent verdict.

Without knowing the details of the case, of course, it is impossible to say anything certain about the actions of the physicians involved in this man’s treatment. Like any other area of health care practice, anesthesiology involves specific practice guidelines and standards which health care professionals, both surgeons and nurses, are required to follow. Failure to follow those standards can result in significant liability for providers, as is seen in this case.

The issue of malpractice liability, of course, will be sorted out through the legal process, along with the appropriate amount of damages. What about the issue of physician discipline, though? How does it relate to medical malpractice litigation? In our next post, we’ll look briefly at the relationship between medical malpractice and disciplinary action.