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St. Petersburg, Florida

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Bob Carroll
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Malpractice Victims Need To Be Heard By Florida's Board Of Medicine

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The Florida State Board of Medicine needs to involve more of the patient/victims of botched medical care in its hearings. That is the gist of the article in the Palm Beach Post.

Medical errors, medical malpractice, surgical mistakes…these all have real consequences to real people. And, the real people often have important input into the facts of the medical care as well as an understandable interest in the outcome of the hearing.

State does poor job involving victims

TAMPA — When the state Board of Medicine meets to discipline doctors for malpractice, state prosecutors, the accused physicians and their attorneys are almost always there to answer questions.

But one source of information is usually nowhere in sight: The patients or their next of kin.

Take Dianne Hedrick. The Wellington woman wasn’t told by the state when her surgeon was scheduled in June to have his case heard before the board. Dr. Paul Liebman botched her varicose vein surgery in 1999 and as a result she had to have her right leg amputated.

There’s the family of Lynn Draina of Weston. They also weren’t advised when the gynecologist whose surgical error led to her death was before the board this month. Draina died in 2003 after Dr. Helen Salsbury burned a hole in her uterus during a procedure to reduce excessive menstrual bleeding.

While medical board members say they want to hear from patients at their meetings so they can get a clearer understanding of the incidents and their outcomes, many patients don’t appear to be getting the message.

The 15-member board, all volunteers, meets six times a year to discipline the state’s physicians and physician assistants. The board, which includes 12 doctors, hears cases ranging from doctors operating on the wrong body part to not meeting continuing education requirements to doctors convicted of billing fraud.

Board members acknowledge that few patients ever come before the panel. They say they think few patients show up because they don’t want to relive the emotional trauma of the incident or don’t want to travel far from home for the meeting.

Patients say they’re not notified of the meetings.

Health Department officials said they abide by state law, which requires them to periodically notify patients about the status of an investigation into their doctor. That includes notifying them before any appearance before the medical board.