California Medical Malpractice Rampant Without Penalty According to New Report

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Many California Doctors Guilty of Gross Negligence Still Practicing Medicine According to Report

Many California Doctors Guilty of Gross Negligence Still Practicing Medicine According to Report

Jul 19, 2021

An alarming report released by the Los Angeles Times indicates the Medical Board of California has consistently allowed doctors accused of negligence to continue practicing and harming patients. According to an investigation conducted by the Times, the state medical board – responsible for overseeing physicians and handing down sanctions to those who commit negligence- often takes either minimal or no action at all when serious malpractice accusations arise.

As a result, the Times’ report confirms, doctors are allowed to continue practicing medicine, many causing mistakes that leave patients “dead, paralyzed, brain-damaged, and missing limbs.

One patient featured in the report, Lenora Lewis, 52, was paralyzed when, according to medical records, her doctor punctured the membrane encasing her spinal cord during surgery. The error caused the protective fluid to leak out. Additionally, the medical board confirmed that Lewis’s doctor installed a piece of spinal hardware which shattered.

That physician, Dr. Mukesh Misra, has been one of the most frequently disciplined doctors in all of California, according to the Times’ investigation. The Medical Board of California reportedly found reason to revoke his license on three occasions, but in each case Misra was ultimately placed on probation instead.

In 2010, the board accused Misra of gross negligence, incompetence, and repeated acts of negligence for operating on the wrong side of a patient’s brain. The board called the error “an extreme departure from the standard of care that required a second surgery,” according to the Times.

Although Dr. Misra denies that specific claim, he did admit to failing to maintain accurate records for his treatment of the patient who underwent the botched brain surgery, and agreed to undergo remedial education as part of a stipulated settlement resulting from the board’s accusations. Additionally, Dr. Misra was issued a public reprimand.

Nevertheless, as the Times confirms, there is no limit to the number of times a doctor can be placed on probation. Accordingly, Dr. Misra is still actively practicing medicine.

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I feel very confident and comfortable taking care of patients,” Dr. Misra told the Los Angeles Times. “I am safe, absolutely.”

In the report, Lenora Lewis, who is confined to a wheelchair after being operated on by Misra, expressed frustration and incredulity over the notion that a doctor with such a record could still be practicing medicine in California.

The fact that he’s out and about and still practicing is just amazing to me,” Lewis told the Times. “There is definitely a flaw in the medical board’s system of justice.

In an analysis of records obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the Medical Board received nearly 90,000 complaints against doctors in the last decade from patients, nurses, fellow physicians, and others. Only 3,100 of those complaints led to disciplinary action, with three-quarters ending in probation or letters of reprimand. Furthermore, just 439 – less than half of 1% of the original complaints – resulted in licenses being revoked.

The Times report describes a pattern of “lenient discipline imposed by the board.” Moreover, since 2008, some doctors were alleged to have misled both patients and the board’s own investigators in an effort to “conceal significant medical errors.”

The Times’ investigation uncovered nine separate cases where the board found that doctors had committed offenses warranting license revocation. But in each instance, the board inevitably gave the offending doctors’ lighter punishments – staying their revocations and putting them on probation. In reviewing medical board records, the Times found that four of those nine offending doctors were later accused of doing serious harm to other patients following their first discipline from the board.

The Los Angeles Times specifically identified doctors who were sanctioned in such a manner:

  • Dr. Aytac Apaydin is a Salinas, California, urologist who reportedly “left a piece of wire in a patient’s bladder, leaving him impotent, in pain, and urinating blood for a year.” The Times reported that the board eventually revoked his license in 2018 for the negligent care of four other patients, but it stayed the order and placed him on probation, allowing him to continue practicing.
  • Kevin Ciresi is a Fresno, California, plastic surgeon with five convictions for driving under the influence, according to the Times. The board reportedly revoked his medical license on two occasions and then stayed the actions and put him on probation. Ciresi is accused of gross negligence in a pending board action for the death of one patient and the permanent brain damage of another. He reportedly denied wrongdoing in civil lawsuits filed in those cases.
  • John Chiu is a Thousand Oaks, California, surgeon who the Times confirmed was threatened with a third license revocation. Upon that third threat, Chiu reportedly asked for a “grace period” of a few months to sell his practice “without the taint of a lost license scaring off buyers.” The board actually allowed Chiu’s request. However, on the day before he finally surrendered his license, a pending lawsuit claims that Chiu botched a surgery, leaving the patient in excruciating pain and dependent on a walker.
  • Lokesh Tantuwaya is a San Diego, California, spinal surgeon who reportedly had his license revoked three times by the board, only to have the sanctions changed and then be placed on probation each time. According to the Times, his license remains valid as he sits in jail awaiting trial on charges that he took more than $3 million in illegal kickbacks for surgeries in one of the biggest insurance scams in state history.

In a related report, the Los Angeles Times highlighted the fact that while injured patients and consumer rights groups fight for tougher penalties on “grossly negligent doctors,” a powerful physician’s lobby is working diligently to thwart any chance at reform. The California Medical Association is a high-powered and “deep-pocketed” lobbying group that, as the Times reports, recently issued a message to its members touting a “major victory” in persuading State Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside) to kill “problematic proposals.”

Roth was reportedly sponsoring reform – State Bill 806 (SB 806) – that would include medical license fee increases and altering the balance of the oversight board from a physician majority to a public member majority. But the California Medical Association was able to kill the latter measure and reduce the medical license fee increase from 50% to only 8%.

According to the Times’ report, Roth “adamantly refuted the claim” and stated, “I’m concerned when people misrepresent the process.

But as Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego, told the Times, the California Medical Association is a “pernicious cartel” that reportedly takes drastic measures to reduce critical funds that are necessary for the state medical board to properly investigate doctors.

“It’s very frustrating and they get away with it year after year after year,” Fellmeth said to the Times. “It’s been going on for four decades.”

As the Times’ report noted, the California Medical Association’s political ties run deep (you might recall Governor Gavin Newsom’s highly-publicized maskless Napa Valley dinner with lobbyists in November).

Lawmakers conduct reviews of the Medical Board of California at least once every four years. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year’s hearing at the Capitol in March was “contentious,” with medical board officials defending their record of enforcement and injured patients pleading for transparency and stiffer punishments on negligent physicians.

Eserick “TJ” Watkins, one of seven non-physicians on the 15-member board, told lawmakers that he has lost faith in the board he serves on after seeing concerns continually ignored, according to the Times. Watkins stated that the board “uses a legal veil to protect doctors” by prioritizing the rehabilitation of those accused of misconduct over the protection of patients.

We protect the doctors, and we go over and above to do so,” Watkins said at the March hearing.

In a July newsletter, Medical Board of California president, President Kristina D. Lawson, wrote that the recent legislative scrutiny over the organization’s enforcement program made it “clear we can do better.”

Senator Roth’s SB 806 still includes some important reforms, such as allowing the board to seek reimbursement from disciplined doctors for investigation and legal costs. As Roth told the Los Angeles Times, that measure is crucial because, with no fee increases in 15 years, the board will be “insolvent.”

California Medical Malpractice and the Fairness for Injured Patients Act

The investigation by the Los Angeles Times highlights one of the most hotly debated and universally anticipated ballot initiatives set for 2022. Delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act seeks to raise the limit for pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits from the $250,000 cap that was set in 1975 to more than $1.2 million (with continued increases to keep up with inflation).

In April of last year, US News reported that proponents of the Fairness for Injured Patients Act made the proactive decision to delay the initiative until November 2022 due to uncertainty prompted by the pandemic.

“Voters are overwhelmed with trying to keep their families safe and deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19,” Consumer Watchdog board member, Scott Olsen, said in a statement. “It will be more productive to have this conversation when everything stabilizes.” Consumer Watchdog is one of the leading proponents of the legislation, and has outlined five “dangerous myths” about California’s medical malpractice restrictions:

  • Myth #1: Legal restrictions on victims lowered California doctors’ malpractice premiums
  • Myth #2: Injured patients are still able to hold wrongdoers legally accountable because only “non-economic” damages are capped – compensation for those damages not measured by wage loss, medical bills, or other tangible economic measures
  • Myth #3: A one-size-fits-all cap on compensation is fair to patients who can receive “unlimited” economic damages
  • Myth #4: Malpractice damage caps are about doctors vs. lawyers
  • Myth #5: Defensive medicine is always bad, significantly drives up the costs of medicine and results from doctors facing full legal accountability

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As the current cap on damages was set in 1975, proponents of the Fairness for Injured Patients Act claim that in 1975 dollars, the $250,000 limit is only actually worth $50,768. Adjusting the $250,000 cap for inflation, that figure would reportedly equal $1,231,084.45 in today’s dollars.

In a December 2019 report entitled “California is still stuck in the past on medical malpractice payouts,” the Los Angeles Times noted that “after paying attorney fees and court costs” in a medical malpractice case, the average person would be “fortunate to net $100,000.” Furthermore, “you’d probably settle for less to avoid court expenses and frustration, if you could even find an attorney to take the low-paying case,” according to the Times.

Securing Justice for Your Medical Malpractice Injury

Although the Fairness for Injured Patients Act has yet to reach the ballot, victims of medical malpractice can still obtain justice by filing a civil lawsuit with the help of a dedicated and experienced personal injury attorney like Sam Dordulian. A former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Dordulian has successfully obtained over 100 jury trial victories throughout his esteemed career.

That’s a level of experience you can’t find in most medical malpractice or personal injury lawyers. But with Dordulian Law Group (DLG), victims of medical malpractice have a team of seasoned, skilled, and proven attorneys fighting to secure maximum financial compensation for their injuries.

With a 98% success record and more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts recovered for injured clients like you, DLG is the absolute best and most prudent choice available when searching for a medical malpractice lawyer in the Los Angeles, California-area. Unlike settlement mill firms that may force injured medical malpractice victims to accept a damages award that does not cover all applicable losses, we fight to recover maximum financial compensation for each and every client. If an at-fault doctor or insurance company attempts a lowball settlement offer, we simply utilize Sam Dordulian’s extensive courtroom experience and take the case to trial.

With DLG, you can have peace of mind and confidence knowing that your medical malpractice case is in the best possible hands, and that your attorneys are aggressively working to recover every applicable loss you’ve endured – both economic and non-economic.

From hospital expenses to rehabilitation, pain and suffering to emotional trauma, at DLG we fight to recover every ounce of financial compensation you rightly deserve after a traumatic medical malpractice incident.

And with an in-house chief investigator who recently retired from the LAPD after nearly 30 years of service to the community on our team, you can rest easy knowing that we’ll launch a thorough investigation to help convincingly prove your medical malpractice claim.

DLG’s Moses Castillo knows how important gathering evidence can be in helping to prove a medical malpractice case and increase a victim’s damages award. When you bring your medical malpractice claim to DLG, we’ll listen to the facts of your case, launch a thorough investigation, and develop a precise legal strategy based on our years of experience and proven results that helps you make a complete recovery – physically, emotionally, and financially.

Contact DLG today to discuss your medical malpractice case. We’re available 24/7 online or by phone at 818-322-4056. Our consultations are always free, and with our No Win/No Fee Guarantee, you never have to worry about upfront costs or hidden fees. With DLG, you pay nothing until we recover maximum financial compensation for your medical malpractice claim.

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