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Bergen County, New Jersey

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Karen Boe Gatlin
Karen Boe Gatlin
Contributor •

Medical Malpractice and Physician Impairment

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Medical malpractice lawsuits allow injured patients to receive money damages for the injuries caused by the malpractice; however, courts cannot take any action to sanction physicians who may endanger the public. Malpractice, by definition, is due to negligence; that is, a physician fails to take appropriate medical action. A component of malpractice may, however, be impairment of physicians due to drug use, excess alcohol use, mental health issues, or criminal behavior. While courts cannot revoke licenses, restrict licenses, or limit physician practices, the Board of Medical Examiners, a state agency, has the responsibility to license physicians and to investigate and take action against physicians who endanger the health and safety of the public.

Therefore, it is particularly disturbing to find that New Jersey ranks 42 among all states in investigating and sanctioning its physicians. The ranking has fallen from 24 to 42 in just five years. Why has the Board of Medical Examiners become lax in sanctioning its physicians? Is the composition of the board the problem or is there some other cause? The state has determined to conduct a full investigation and institute necessary changes to ensure that residents of New Jersey are protected against physicians who should, either permanently or temporarily, be restricted in their practice of medicine.