How effective is the Virginia Board of Medicine at Protecting Patients from Malpractice?

The recent suspension of a Virginia Beach doctor’s license to practice medicine after at least five suspicious patient deaths is just one example of the shortcomings of the Virginia Board of Medicine.  According to an August 2008 consent order sent to Dr. Stephen Plotnick – along with a notice that his license to practice medicine had been revoked – the board stated “that between the years of 2002 to 2008, he failed to properly manage the care and treatment of Patients A-U”.


An investigation by the Virginia Pilot newspaper found that according to medical board records, civil lawsuits and medical examiners' reports ten of Dr. Plotnick’s patients have died under suspicious circumstances since 2004.  Seven of those patients died of drug overdoses linked to prescriptions from Dr. Plotnick.  In January, Dr. Plotnick, a rheumatologist, agreed to surrender his license for two years.  If his license is ever reinstated, he has agreed to not treat patients with chronic pain.


This case is alarming because it took about five years from the time the first complaint was filed against Plotnick with the Virginia Board of Medicine to the August ’08 when his license was suspended.  Why such a long delay?  Unfortunately for Virginia patients and their families, there is no easy answer.


Why delay disciplining negligent doctors?


In 1999 a report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) stated that Virginia's medical regulatory system allowed dangerous doctors to keep practicing for years before losing their licenses – which is exactly what happened with Dr. Plotnick.  Surveys by the consumer group Public Citizen have also revealed that Virginia disciplines fewer doctors than it did five years ago, when reforms prompted by the 1999 JLARC report were enacted.


One issue is that the Virginia Board of Medicine relies on complaints to monitor doctors.  As a result, doctors like Plotnick can allegedly cause harm and death to their patients, but until somebody complains there is no issue as far as the board is concerned.  The board has also cited the sheer number of complaints as a reason for a delay in addressing cases of medical malpractice.


Compounding these problems is reluctance within the medical community to accuse one’s colleagues of medical malpractice, which means other doctors or healthcare professionals may be aware of a physician’s shortcomings, but they are reluctant to bring them to the attention of the law.  Unfortunately, in these situations the patients end up losing while the physician at fault goes unpunished.


If you or someone you love has been the victim of medical malpractice or medical neglect in the Norfolk or Virginia Beach area, please contact the personal injury attorneys at Tavss Fletcher.  We will work with you to ensure that your pain and suffering is not ignored, and that you receive the justice and compensation you need to move on with your life.



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