Protect yourself, research your surgeon's background

March 1, 2014 

I have always been an ardent supporter of tort reform until recently. A first-hand experience has taught me that a person has to take extraordinary steps to investigate the abilities of their surgeon.

To truly understand the importance of researching your surgeon, a patient must understand some long-standing legal protections that surgeons already have in place.

A surgeon's prior history of medical negligence can only be brought before a jury if they actually went to court and were found liable of negligence. Settlements outside of a jury are excluded from admission.

Further, any governing board sanctions, fines and/or reprimands are only admissible if the surgeon fails to reach a settlement with the state in an agreed fashion.

Another interesting protection is that although they are required to fully disclose risks of a recommended procedure, they are not required to disclose all alternatives or compare the differences between the risks of both procedures.

Nor are they required to disclose their experience in performing the procedure and any prior complaints.

As a result of these protections, surgeons know that statistically in Florida that they will prevail in court between 75-80 percent of the time.

The medical community and the courts consider it strictly the responsibility of the patient to discover through direct questioning and personal research the skills of the physician and/or procedure.

So, I want to provide the public with some key websites to help research their medical provider. -- Manatee County Clerk of Courts -- Florida Department of Insurance -- Florida Department of Health

It is important that a patient search all three databases to get a complete picture. Most surgeons are top notch but a few have hidden behind these protections and have gravely impacted patients lives.

John Berkey


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