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Vetting a doctor: How can a consumer find reliable information?

Imagine that you were informed by a trusted doctor that you required a surgical procedure. Perhaps your doctor recommended a particular surgeon for the job, or perhaps that same surgeon came highly recommended from other sources.

And now imagine that, following surgery performed by that recommended doctor, you developed serious complications caused by the negligence of the surgeon. To your dismay — even shock — you later found out that the surgeon (prior to your surgery) had been the defendant in multiple medical malpractice complaints filed by other injured patients.

How upset would you be?

A recent media article discusses the difficulty that would-be surgical patients often have in getting a good handle on a doctor’s credentials, licensing history and other key professional data. Such data logically includes any past medical malpractice history.

Getting pertinent and comprehensive information, while not impossible, is not as easy as many people might believe. Michael Carome, a research director of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, notes that there is no one-stop shop that disseminates completely accurate and timely information regarding a doctor’s professional record.

Still, there a number of sources that do provide relevant information and that collectively can help sketch out a physician’s background and personal history.

One such source is the medical board that exists in each state. Although boards vary in the type and scope of data they release, it is likely that an inquiring consumer can collect some useful information through a board’s website or by directly contacting the board and asking.

A number of other websites also exist that provide relevant doctor information — either free or for a fee — to inquiring consumers. They include sites such as (provides doctor reviews and some malpractice information) and (provides data on a doctor’s prescribing habits and history).

Additionally, persons with questions or concerns regarding a doctor and surgical errors or other type of negligence can contact an experienced plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney.

Source:  Rockford Register Star, “Checking on your doctor’s background may take some digging,” Christine Aschwanden (special to the Washington Post), March 2, 2014