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Surgeon Kills and Injures Patients While Officials Fail to Act

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By: Robert F. Geimer

In a stunning report by Saul Elbein of the Texas Observer, a neurosurgeon in Texas killed and severely injured patients for several years until authorities finally suspended his medical license in June, 2013.  Among his victims was a 55 year-old woman who died after undergoing a routine operation for back pain.  According to the medical examiner, the cause of death was listed as “therapeutic misadventure.”  Apparently, the doctor sliced through one of her arteries and she bled to death.  She is survived by her husband and daughters.  The report is replete with similar horror stories, including reports of patients being paralyzed by inexcusable medical errors.

Even though other physicians alerted authorities, using phrases like “the worst surgeon I’ve ever seen,” Texas authorities took years to act.  Part of the problem was a series of conservative “reforms” that severely limited patients’ options for holding dangerous doctors and hospitals accountable for bad care.  For example, Texas passed a law that allows patients to hold hospitals accountable only if they can prove that the hospital acted with “malice.”  But it also passed a law to make it extremely difficult to obtain hospital records to prove a case.

This report, and other reports around the country, show how so-called “reforms” actually shield doctors and hospitals from being held accountable for conduct that seriously injures or kills patients.  Preventable medical errors are the 6th leading cause of death in America.  We cannot allow our legislatures to continue to pass laws that will allow tragedies like those in Texas to keep occurring.

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