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View Full Version : Can a Doctor be put on Paid Leave during a Malpractice Suit?



mfarraday
06-05-2014, 08:36 PM
This is my scenario:

A doctor is being sued for malpractice. He was suffering from a sleeping disorder a few years before, which developed after he left medical school, where as you may know, doctors-in-training (and even already-graduated-doctors) do shifts that can run 2-3 days at a time. So, he got into a situation where he was barely able to stay awake sometimes, and was unable to sleep on other days. He was performing a surgery during this period and he botched it; the boy he was operating on (a routine tonsillectomy) bled to death on the table. Later it was discovered that the boy had a rare disorder called Bernard-Soulier Syndrome, which can cause uncontrolled bleeding.

But anyway, he had kept his sleeping disorder secret from most people, except his ex-girlfriend who lived with him back then.

Now, it's several years later and he is being sued for malpractice, and the ex-girlfriend wants to testify against him.

Would the hospital board where he works put him on paid leave for this sort of thing? It is integral to my plot.

Thanks,

Heather

Bufty
06-05-2014, 08:47 PM
I would hope so.

Up to the Hospital Board to decide but I doubt many patients would like to be operated on by a Doctor who was involved in a suit for malpractice in connection with botched surgery.

Coffee Monster
06-05-2014, 08:51 PM
Hi there,

I don't know all that much about malpractice law and hospital administration, so I can't answer the question you raised. One thing I did want to point out from your post (if this comes up as part of your plot) regarding the nature of residency (i.e. post-graduate training). I am only familiar with the U.S. system, so if your story takes place somewhere else it may not apply, but there have been recent changes to duty-hour restrictions, such that residents are no longer allowed to work 2-3 days in a row without leaving the hospital. This was permitted in the past, but has since changed (in 2003, I believe). After the first year of residency, residents are technically not supposed to be involved in patient care for more than 24 hours (though they may stay a few hours longer to wrap things up and participate in educational activities). First year residents are not supposed to be in the hospital for longer than 16 hours in a row.

Also, if this medical error occurred while he was a resident, I do not believe he is the one who would be sued. Rather, it would be the supervising (attending) surgeon. He likely would have faced disciplinary action from his program, however.

King Neptune
06-05-2014, 11:04 PM
I agree with the monster, and I believe that if he was not fully licensedand doing surgery unsupervised that the hospital would have general liability. Not only might the hospital keep him on paid leave, but they might continue to have him working regular hours. It is not unusual for a physician to be sued for malpractice, and many of them continue working. Such a suit is not generally regarded as a horrible thing, because suits are so common.

High risk medical specialties for claim/year are: Neurosurgery (19,1%), Thoracic - Cardiovascular Surgery (18,9%), General Surgery (15,3%), Orthopedic Surgery (14,8%), Plastic Surgery (13%), Obstetrics and Gynecology (12%), Urology (10,5%). Low risk specialties are: pathology, Dermatology, Family General Practice, Pediatrics, Psychiatry (mean 5%/year risk for claim).
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3282548/

PlainJane
06-05-2014, 11:44 PM
If the hospital is sufficiently concerned about his ability to practice safely, the appropriate staff committee would either revoke, suspend, or put restrictions (like supervision) on his hospital privileges. The state medical board could do something similar after investigating a complaint (independent of any malpractice claims), but that takes months to years.

I'm not an expert, but I believe whether or not he is paid would depend partly on whether or not he was a salaried employee of the hospital or a just a community doc with privileges. If it's the former, it might be up to the hospital's staff committee; if the latter, he gets paid by the procedure, so he wouldn't be earning those fees if he wasn't doing surgery. Depending on the specialty, he might be able to do office or outpatient procedures without hospital privileges.

sheadakota
06-05-2014, 11:54 PM
Hi there,

I don't know all that much about malpractice law and hospital administration, so I can't answer the question you raised. One thing I did want to point out from your post (if this comes up as part of your plot) regarding the nature of residency (i.e. post-graduate training). I am only familiar with the U.S. system, so if your story takes place somewhere else it may not apply, but there have been recent changes to duty-hour restrictions, such that residents are no longer allowed to work 2-3 days in a row without leaving the hospital. This was permitted in the past, but has since changed (in 2003, I believe). After the first year of residency, residents are technically not supposed to be involved in patient care for more than 24 hours (though they may stay a few hours longer to wrap things up and participate in educational activities). First year residents are not supposed to be in the hospital for longer than 16 hours in a row.

Also, if this medical error occurred while he was a resident, I do not believe he is the one who would be sued. Rather, it would be the supervising (attending) surgeon. He likely would have faced disciplinary action from his program, however.

This. If your story takes place within the last ten years or so. this is true. There are strict guidelines in regards to how many hours a resident can be awake and practicing- also if he is not licensed- the hospital will be responsible for his actions in a lawsuit. he would continue to work while the lawsuit was taking place. Lawsuits can take years to come to fruition, it every doctor that got named in a malpractice suite were to take a paid leave of absence there would be no one left to take care of us. (Note- just because one is name in a malpractice suit does not mean they did anything wrong- their name was just on that patient's medical record.

WeaselFire
06-06-2014, 12:20 AM
Would the hospital board where he works put him on paid leave for this sort of thing? It is integral to my plot.
Integral in what way? Doctors wouldn't be put on paid leave, there's no reason to. Malpractice suits are common, almost normal, and paying a doctor to do nothing for the long time it takes for lawyers to settle isn't very profitable.

Now, if the basis of the suit was a current issue for the doctor, they could suspend some privileges, change his schedules or require supervision. The reason would be to prevent further lawsuits until his current condition was corrected, not really anything to do with the suit.

Also, a separate action against the doctor could cause him to lose his license or face other restrictions, but that's not a malpractice suit.

Jeff

sheadakota
06-06-2014, 12:56 AM
. Later it was discovered that the boy had a rare disorder called Bernard-Soulier Syndrome, which can cause uncontrolled bleeding.


There is also a problem with this syndrome. Bernard soulier disease is usually picked up in infancy. There is no way a child old enough to have tonsils wouldn't have had this diagnosed already. every cut, every scraped knee- every tooth eruption would have caused unusual bleeding to the point the parents would have sought out medical help. Basically it is a syndrome that keeps the platelets from sticking together- for these symptoms they would have testing his bleeding times and clotting factors (there are like 13 of them) and they would come up with this diagnosed long before he went in for surgery. Sorry about that.

Coffee Monster
06-06-2014, 01:57 AM
There is also a problem with this syndrome. Bernard soulier disease is usually picked up in infancy. There is no way a child old enough to have tonsils wouldn't have had this diagnosed already. every cut, every scraped knee- every tooth eruption would have caused unusual bleeding to the point the parents would have sought out medical help. Basically it is a syndrome that keeps the platelets from sticking together- for these symptoms they would have testing his bleeding times and clotting factors (there are like 13 of them) and they would come up with this diagnosed long before he went in for surgery. Sorry about that.

I second that. Also, Bernard-Soulier typically presents with at least mild thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), so there would be suspicion of the condition prior to surgery. A better disease to fit this boy's history is von Willebrand disease which is another inherited bleeding disorder involving the ability of platelets to bunch together. Because it is not a disorder of the platelets themselves (but rather a deficiency in von Willebrand factor) it can be missed on routine pre-operative laboratory testing. There are several phenotypic variants of the disorder, such that it can be mild and totally unremarkable in some patients, but fatal after trauma and surgery in others. I think it works better for your scenario.

jclarkdawe
06-06-2014, 04:30 AM
Nearly always a bleeding disorder is discovered whenever a line is inserted. If you don't clot from a stick, you're not going to clot.

Several years can mean many things, but there is a statute of limitations here and it's likely to be only two to three years.

If he fell asleep during the operation, the other members of the surgical team would have noticed. If he doesn't fall asleep during surgery, how is his sleep disorder relevant?

Where is the surgeon responsible for this surgery? If your boy is in training, he's not the responsible surgeon.

Girlfriend's testimony is going to present lots of legal issues presuming it is in fact relevant.

As he is not the surgeon responsible for the surgery, it is unlikely that he'd face any disciplinary actions for the surgery.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe