Patient Rights When Dealing With Incompetent Doctors

KC Kelly Ph.D.'s picture

Many doctors who are practicing medicine (physical or mental health related) are not reporting incompetent colleagues and they are ignoring patient rights. This is a huge legal and ethical issue. When a doctor of any kind becomes licensed in their respective states to practice medicine, they place themselves under legal and ethical obligations to report to their boards, any suspicions of incompetency, wrong-doing or malpractice by colleagues to the authorities.

In what other ways can we keep doctors from unsafe practice if not by professionals who know their fields coming forward and reporting other professional who are practicing in unethical or illegal ways? This is highly important in order to protect patients' rights who may have serious medical issues and go to see experts whom they trust to for help.

A statistic reported from a new study about incompetency among doctors, reported that approximately one-third of doctors who knew of colleagues who were performing in unethical or illegal ways or were just overall incompetent in their practice did not turn them in to authorities.

Doctors who are practicing under the influence of drugs or alcohol and who are impaired while seeing their patients often get away with this behavior and it has to stop. The best way for these doctors to be "found out" is by either their patients reporting them, or their colleagues reporting them, but this doesn't seem to happening enough and many patients are being seen for anything from minor to serious conditions by incompetent professionals!

Researcher Catherine M. DesRoches, assistant professor of medicine at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston and her colleagues sent surveys to 2,938 doctors practicing in the U.S. in 2009 in a variety of areas including anesthesiology, cardiology, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. They received responses back from 1,891 doctors (65%). This is what she had to say, "We had 17% of physicians who had direct knowledge of a colleague in their practice or hospital whom they believed was impaired or incompetent. About two-thirds of those did report that physician, but we still had about a third that did not report."

Why don't doctors report incompetent colleagues? When asked the doctors shared that they thought someone else was doing the reporting, that nothing would be done if they were reported or that they feared retribution.

If you were a patient, being seen by an incompetent doctor, wouldn't you want them turned in? The issue here is that most patients go to doctors once they find out they have a problem. They may be too sick to even think about distrusting an expert and they literally put their lives in the hands of a doctor, trusting them implicitly.

Here is something important to remember about your doctor's visits: An educated consumer is the only type of consumer that should ever be buying products or services. Always educated yourself as to the doctor to whom you visit. Know their background, years of practice, any complaints against them. And then when you are being examined by them, keep your eyes and ears open for any suspicious feelings or implications of incompetency. This is your health and sometimes your life that you are putting into someone else's hands. Just because they call themselves professionals or have degrees on their walls, does not mean you are in the best hands.

When it comes to dealing with possible incompetent doctors and patients' rights, family members or loved ones should especially make sure that the doctors they are bringing their children or elderly family members to are competent. If doctors are not going to protect their patients, then family members, loved ones and/or friends should take over the job! And if you feel as though you or a loved one is being seen by an incompetent doctor, immediately discontinue seeing that doctor and report him or her to the medical board in the state in which he or she is licensed.


Submitted by Joseph Haynes (not verified) on
I had to have surgery (2007) to remove a prednisone pannus because I had been on high doses of prednisone for more than ten years. The surgery went horribly wrong with several complications because Dr. Cohen would not listen to the other doctors and went on with the surgery anyway. When the stitching came undone I had to have a second surgery (2009). The surgeons who assisted in my surgery let me bleed internally for nine days because Dr. Coleman left the hospital right after the surgery and he could not be reached (one of the surgeons who assisted told me I would have to ride it out until they could get in touch with Dr. Coleman). My hemoglobin was 6.8 after the first surgery. Nine days later, after receiving 14 units of blood and 2 units of plasma, my hemoglobin was 6.6 (hell of a ride!!!). It didn’t seem to matter how much blood they pumped into me, I was losing ground, so on the eighth day the hospital doctor, Dr. Riley Snook, who knew my medical case, only too well, called Dr. Wooden in to do the surgery (washout). Dr. Wooden examined me, a push here, and a poke there, and in just a few minutes he told me I would be in surgery early the next morning. The surgery did not go off as scheduled because Dr. Coleman had to have a surgeon who he could trust to help cover up what they did wrong. I was led to believe that Dr. Wooden did the washout and stopped the bleeders. It was not until a month or so ago that I found out the surgeon that Dr. Coleman trusted was Dr. Flores. Between Dr. Coleman and Dr. Flores, my stomach was forced up into my lungs, collapsing 2/3 of my right lung and 1/3 of my left lung. I have been asking, no, begging to get a surgeon to fix the damage and correct the intestinal problem. Four hospital doctors and three surgeons tried to help me but the Chief surgeon told them not to help me or they would be fired. Dr. Pascuzzi, my neurologist at IU Hospital, told me to go outside of IU Hospital’s control. I went to seven different Surgeons who were qualified to do the surgery I needed. As each one of those Doctors talked to the Chief surgeon at IU Hospital, they would then call me back and cancel my appointment and tell me they did not want to get involved. In all, twenty-two doctors covered up for a few surgeons who think they are privileged and don’t want their superior standing to be damaged beyond repair. Before the first surgery I played golf nearly every day, shot hoops, and made mad passionate love to my wife. I nearly died in the first surgery and they tried even harder to do me in during the second surgery. The surgeons turned a healthy man into an invalid and I am now on Hospice Care and Home Bound. There is a massive cover-up going on because Dr. Coleman, Chief of Plastic Surgery at IU Hospital, doesn’t want anyone to know what horrible mistakes were made on me, and it didn’t have to be that way. The only way I’m going to live through this situation is for the News Media to expose the cover-up that is going on at IU Hospital. The last I heard from Dr. Pascuzzi was that Dr. Coleman’s influences ran deeper than just IU Hospital and he said we would have to start looking out of state. I am a sixty-six year old man and my means are moderate at best, so even if I found a surgeon out of state I would not have the means to travel there. Please help me before it’s too late. Joseph Haynes Phone: 765-282-7826 E-mail:

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