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Bad Doctors Could Continue Practicing with New Oregon Mediation Law

Wednesday, September, 18, 2013


Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group spearheaded by Ralph Nader, claims that a new Oregon medical mediation law protects bad doctors.  Oregon governor John Kitzhaber led a legislative push and approval for the new law that was the first of its kind in the country.  Titled SB 483, the law allows medical facilities and physicians to settle malpractice disputes and claims through mediation before a lawsuit is even filed. 


According to a statement by Public Citizen, due to the confidential nature of mediation, this new law will allow bad doctors to remain under the radar.  In doing so, it will encourage these doctors to keep practicing, raising the likelihood of potential harm to future patients.  While it is quite common for medical malpractice cases to be settled out of court, a lawsuit is generally first filed so that the case will be reported to a national database.  The purpose of this database is to allow hospitals and clinics to review the past performance of doctors seeking a job in a new state.  


Michael Carome, head of the Health Research Group within Public Citizen, states, "Physicians do move around, particularly physicians who get into trouble.”  He reiterates that with legislation like this, these physicians will not be “adequately screened” before being hired by another facility.  He states that this is especially true if other states begin to pass similar legislation. 


In a letter written U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Carome requested that mediation settlements that fall under this new legislation be reported and listed in the National Practitioner Data Bank along with other malpractice settlements.  According to his letter, “The Oregon law seeks to create a loophole that would allow physicians to avoid reporting to the Data Bank any malpractice payments.”