In the recent weeks, there have been numerous news reports coming out of Texas regarding the Texas Medical Board allowing negligent physicians to continue practicing medicine. The USA Today reported on it (here) and the Texas Observer here reported on it (here). After reading the horrific stories contained in these articles, one must ask himself, how can this be? The answer is simple: Texas Tort Reform.
In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed tort reform legislation which broke down the de facto regulatory system for hospitals and doctors. Hospitals and doctors, prior to 2003, were regulated through several mechanisms: the Texas Medical Board, which oversaw the licensing of physicians, hospital administrators, who attempted to limit a hospital’s exposure to malpractice claims, and finally the civil justice system. The tort reform measures passed by the Texas Legislature, however, took away the effective remedies of the civil justice system, which then took away for the need of hospital administrator’s vigilance to limit liability, leaving only the Texas Medical Board to regulate hospitals.
The medical malpractice caps on damages as well as immunities for hospitals have created an indifference for hospitals to police themselves. The standard required to sue a hospital for physician negligence is “malice”; that is, the hospital must have known of an extreme risk when hiring a physician and ignored it. The problem in proving this, however, is that the documents required to prove this case are confidential and almost impossible to obtain. This “immunity” from litigation has left only the Texas Medical Board to police medical negligence in hospitals.
The Texas Medical Board was never designed to be an enforcement agency. The Board, which was created by the Medical Practice Act, was created as a regulatory agency to oversee the licensing of physicians in the state of Texas. The Act further recognizes the value of the credential and the presumption is to protect the physician. The Board is prohibited from acting until there has been an investigation, the gathering of evidence, hearings, and appeals- this process lasting years. During this process, these physicians who have been accused, sometimes by multiple patients, are still allowed to practice medicine. Often times, committing more malpractice.
What Texas patients are left with is a broken civil justice system. Patients are relying on the Texas Medical Board to police physician negligence, a duty they were not designed to perform. Patients are now required to take-up the mantel of policing the medical community and the only way to do this is through the civil justice system. Patients must no longer turn a blind eye to medical mistakes or give the physician the benefit of the doubt. Texas has not made patient safety a priority; therefore, the patient must ensure their own safety.
If you believe that you have been injured by doctor, nursing, or hospital error, contact the lawyers at The Talaska Law Firm, PLLC. With over 25 years of medical malpractice experience, our attorneys are well-versed in medical malpractice law in Texas and nationwide. Call today for your free consultation at 713-869-1240 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.