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You may not realize it, but our active duty military have virtually no recourse if they are the victim of medical malpractice by a U.S. military physician or health care provider. This is called the Feres Doctrine and has been the law since a 1950 U.S. Supreme Court case, Feres v. United States.

Well, now the U.S. is trying to expand the Feres Doctrine to include the spouses and family members of U.S. Military. That’s right, they are trying to get the Court’s to agree that, basically, U.S. Military physicians cannot be held responsible for any malpractice. You can read a detailed report in The Atlantic.

I’m sorry, this is just wrong. I’ve always thought the Feres Doctrine was wrong, but at least the argument existed that, as a member of the military, you were giving up certain rights in exchange for certain benefits. The families of U.S. Military don’t make those decisions. And to treat the military members, let alone their families, as if they are undeserving of the best medical care and a means to hold someone accountable if they don’t get it, its just wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The Kansas City Star is reporting on the changes in recent Federal regulations that prohibit journalists and others from using information contained in public databases to identify physicians with dozens of instances of medical malpractice and violations of drug regulations. You can read the full story here.

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The Star describes a physician, known only as “Practitioner 222117″ who may be the most frequently disciplined doctor in America. I’m jaded. Doing what I do, I’ve seen many instances of hospitals and practices covering up bad doctors. I thought I couldn’t be shocked anymore. This shocked me:

According to the Star’s review of the Federal database, Practitioner 222117, in just a 4 year span from 2002 through 2006, had his (or her) license suspended or revoked in 20 states and the District of Columbia! Two professional societies took away his memberships. The Department of Health and Human Services banned the doctor from billing Medicare and Medicaid. And the Drug Enforcement Administration revoked the doctor’s permit to prescribe controlled drugs. For most of that time, his home base was Missouri.

And yet, federal regulations prohibit the Star from cross-checking records and identifying this “doctor.”

Other physicians which reporters are no longer allowed to identify:

A surgeon who lost or settled 247 malpractice cases in California in the 1990s.

A doctor who had drug or alcohol problems and has been in and out of trouble since 1991 with hospitals and licensing boards in at least 5 states.

A Missouri doctor whose staff privileges were suspended or reduced by hospitals 7 times and voluntarily surrendered hospital privileges on 4 other occasions.

And HHS is publishing rules to prohibit anyone from using their database to identify and out these people? Are you kidding me?

This is why I do what I do. At least on a case by case basis, I can help someone get justice.

/STLMedical Malpractice.com

HendricksonLaw.com

The Missouri Board of Healing Arts, the entity that disciplines doctors in Missouri, has been given new powers by the legislature, and those changes to the law have now gone into effect, reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch. That’s a good thing. Among other things, the new law makes it easier for the Missouri Board of Healing Arts to suspend a doctors license on an emergency basis. Probably of most use to the average patient, the new law provides a way for patients to learn more about their doctors, including licenses, board certification, discipline and whether the doctor has been disciplined by another state. Previously this information was literally a state secret. The Missouri Board of Healing Arts didn’t disclose that information.

These changes should make the Missouri Board of Healing Arts more adept at disciplining dangerous doctors. You would think so. But the Board’s first action since the law took effect belies that thought.

You may recall the series of articles the Post Dispatch ran in late 2010 exposing the dismal record of the Board in disciplining doctors in Missouri. One of the featured “doctors” was Krishnarao V. Rednam, who was convicted of overcharging patients and their insurance companies more than $600,000 and destroying patient records. He would bill Medicare for expensive drugs but inject his patients at the St. Louis Eye Clinic with watered down doses or substitute experimental drugs. Rednam was sentenced to 6 months in prison and 4 months of home confinement and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution and fines.

In one of the few cases where the Board of Healing Arts actually acted, it revoked his license until at least 2015. Mind you, this action came only after he had been convicted. But in a stunning reversal, Rednam appealed to the Board to allow him to regain his license. And, reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Board granted that request.

Rednam’s excuse for his actions that led to his conviction? Irrational insanity! Irrational insanity–and you give him back his license to practice medicine? Are you kidding? Know what I call that?

Irrational Insanity.

H.R. 1063 known as the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011 has done what seemingly nothing else has ever done–it has gotten wide spread support from groups as diverse as the American Association for Justice (the preeminent trial lawyers organization in the United States), the Chamber of Commerce (usually opposed to anything and everything supported by the AAJ), and companies like Walmart, Best Buy and Disney. Its being co-sponsored by Republicans Ron Paul, Tim Murphy, Don Young and Howard Cable, along with Democrats Ron Kind, Diana DeGette, Linda Sanchez and Tammy Baldwin.

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So what brings this diverse group of backers together? Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011 will reform the way people deal with Medicare when they have a claim for personal injury. Medicare requires that when a person is injured due to someone else’s negligence, whether it is by medical malpractice, an auto accident, a fall, or any other incident where someone else is at fault, and they are receiving Medicare benefits, then Medicare is entitled to be reimbursed for the money it has spent providing medical care. That’s certainly fair. However, the Medicare bureaucracy now does not allow the Medicare recipient to find out how much Medicare is claiming they have paid for that medical care until after a settlement has been reached. This ridiculous rule puts claimants, their attorneys, defendants and their insurers, in the ridiculous position of trying to guess how much Medicare will want to be repaid.

Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011 simply requires Medicare to provide that information before a settlement is reached. Simple and fair. The result will be that Medicare (meaning the taxpayers) will receive reimbursement faster. And why wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Call or write your congresman and ask them to please support H.R. 1063 known as the Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers Act of 2011.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has reported that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law an amendment to the Workers Compensation Law that bars those who are injured while committing a crime from collecting benefits.

The law was spurred by the case of Matt Mitchell, an Illinois State trooper who was convicted of reckless homicide for the deaths of sisters Kelli and Jessica Uhl in 2007. Mitchell was driving his patrol car at speeds in excess of 100 mph responding to a call while texting and operating the patrol car’s computer.

Gov. Jay Nixon has signed Missouri House Bill 265 which will, hopefully, strengthen the Missouri Board of Healing Arts’ ability to discipline the worst physicians. The new law gives the Board the ability to discipline doctors without going through the state administrative hearing commission, a process that could take 2 years or more.

Another critical feature of the bill is that, for the first time, information that was formerly confidential will be released, such as a doctor’s educational background, speciality certifications, disciplinary record in other states and pending discipline cases. In the past only the doctor’s name, address, license date and previous Missouri discipline was publicly available.

As with anything, by making additional information available to patients, it allows the patients to be better consumers of medical services. As the Post Dispatch reports, this law is supported by patient advocacy groups including the Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.

The bill was inspired by the 2010 Post-Dispatch Series Who Protects The Patients which ran in December 2010.

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The American Tort Reform Foundation, the business lobby group that annually names Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois, as “judicial hellholes” is at it again. In it’s annual attempt to scare the wits out of voters and small businesses, and to influence pro-business “tort reform” legislation, the ATRF has gone beyond it’s poorly masked attempt to influence jurors in what it views as “plaintiff friendly” venues. Now it has taken to including on the list venues which it believes are less troublesome than so-called hellholes, but worth mentioning.In this group it places St. Louis County, Missouri. Now, as an attorney practicing as a plaintiff’s attorney in Missouri for nearly 20 years, this would be laughable if the intent were not so calculatedly evil.For those who are not familiar with the political structure in Missouri, the City of St. Louis is not part of St. Louis County. The City of St. Louis operates as its own county. And the City of St. Louis has been known, for many years, as a “plaintiff-friendly” venue, justified or not. And it is true that plaintiff’s attorneys always felt they could get a fair shake in front of a City jury. Now, St. Louis County has always been a different animal. St. Louis County has been known as a “plaintiff-hostile” venue, where cases with strong liability and serious damages go to die. Ask any practicing trial lawyer in Missouri, and St. Louis County will be listed as a conservative venue. That’s not to say that plaintiff’s can’t win in St. Louis County, they can. Just as a strong liability case can be won in almost any venue. It is just that the perception has always been that juries in St. Louis County, like those in other conservative venues, generally seem to hold plaintiff’s to a higher legal standard than the law requires. While a civil case is to be decided on a preponderance of the evidence, it always seemed that conservative juries seemed to apply a reasonable-doubt standard.And that brings us back to the American Tort De-Form Foundation. In recent years there have been a few substantial verdicts rendered in St. Louis County where liability was clear and damages were severe. Such awards were clearly warranted and they haven’t been over-turned on appeal. This “trend” leads the ATRF to label St. Louis County as a near-hellhole. Preposterous!The reason for this designation is clear. The ATRF and its allies are seeking to taint jury pools. And taint them they will. In 2005 I tried a case in St. Clair County, one of the “hellholes.” Well, it isn’t a hellhole because of the jurors. The ATRF and it’s ilk so poisoned the jury pool that, in response to a written questionnaire prepared by the trial judge, 95% of the jury pool stated that “frivolous lawsuits” were driving up malpractice insurance rates and driving doctors out of Illinois. Interestingly enough, once the jurors heard a little bit about the medical malpractice case they were to hear, a vast majority agreed that my client’s suit wasn’t frivolous and that they would listen to the evidence before they made up their minds. The case settled on day 3 of trial.There are no “judicial hellholes,” only thinly veiled attempts by the pro-business lobby to do anything possible to improperly influence jurors, voters and legislatures with ridiculous “studies” which prove only that if you pay enough for it, you can get a “study” to say anything you want, even that one of the most conservative venues in Missouri can be labeled as a “hellhole.”