What Are Hospital’s Obligations to Weed Out Bad Doctors?

A West Virginia jury this week will consider whether a hospital negligently performed a background check on an orthopedic doctor who is the defendant in an incredible 120 medical malpractice lawsuits. The plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawyers contend that the hospital was not reasonable in failing to properly verify that the doctor was fit to practice medicine.

I do not have a strong opinion on this issue. Obviously, 120 defendants need a deep pocket. Charleston Area Medical Center owns this hospital and has deep pockets. The defendant stopped practicing medicine, changed his name, and moved out of the state. I doubt that he has insurance, although the article I read did not speak to this issue.

Clearly, this doctor was not fit to practice medicine. But he was licensed by the state of West Virginia. Is it negligent to have a doctor with a valid medical license working in your hospital even if a full investigation in his background would have discovered he is unfit to practice medicine? I really do not know and I would not want to be a juror in that case.

I’ll report back on how the jury verdict in this case.