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Fox News Dallas: Tort reformers promised a strong medical board, failed to deliver

Calling Fox News conservative is like calling the Atlantic a pond. Same for Dallas. But Texas is so anti-consumer that even Fox News in Dallas has reported on how tort reform doesn't work for ordinary Texans. In a followup news article, Fox News in Dallas aired a report on the Texas Medical Board. Texas legislators promised in 2003 when passing tort reform that the Texas Medical Board would beef up enforcement on bad doctors to make up for the caps on damages against those doctors. The report concluded that this didn't happen, and the Texas Medical Board's "delays, secrecy and leniency ends up costing patients and leaves a trail of devastation."

The report focused on three ordinary Texas families who were injured by doctors. In one case, the doctor had previously been "disciplined and ordered to pay $25,000 for prescribing controlled substances and dangerous drugs over the Internet." However, this doctor was permitted  to keep practicing, even though he didn't carry malpractice insurance, and he butchered two women during cosmetic procedures. One was left permanently disabled. The bad doctor's punishment? A temporary ban on performing those types of procedures. He is free to keep practicing medicine, and will be permitted to perform cosmetic operations in the future. How is this "keeping a tight rein on doctors"?

Other conclusions of the report include:

  • the Texas Medical Board conducts its reviews in secret, and even affected patients don't get to hear the doctor's side of the story;
  • since tort reform was enacted in 2003, complaints to the medical board have nearly doubled, but the Texas Medical Board only investigates 25% of the claims;
  • neither of the injured women in the story had health insurance, so the treatment they received after being injured by bad doctors was paid for by the taxpayers.

By and large, most doctors are good doctors. The rule of thumb is that 5% of doctors account for 50% of malpractice claims. Unfortunately, after tort reform was enacted, Texas legislators have fallen short on their promise to beef up enforcement against bad doctors. My Texas lawyer friends tell me that since there are limits on malpractice cases, they cannot invest the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to take malpractice cases to trial. The patient loses.

In Arkansas, we don't have caps on damages. However, we expect this to be a fight in the Arkansas legislature in the upcoming session. Please write or call your local legislators and tell them you oppose tort reform, because it lets bad doctors off the hook! If they want proof, send them this link.