Malpractice Settlement Data Could Go Online in North Carolina

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The North Carolina Medical Board is considering a plan to post information on medical malpractice lawsuit settlements on its Web site beginning in 2009, the Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area reports.

The information on the settlements would contain the physician’s name, when the case was settled and an optional box where physicians can provide details on the reasons for the settlement. Settlements from the previous seven years would be included as part of physician profiles that the board publishes online.

The Web site would not contain information on the dollar amount of the settlement, according to Thomas Mansfield, director of the medical board’s legal department.

The state General Assembly passed a law last year giving the medical board the authority to obtain information on physician lawsuits, hospital privileges and criminal convictions, Mansfield said. He also said the legislation did not provide guidance on what information the board could publish online.

The proposed rule for disclosing the settlements online will remain open for public comment until June 30.

Opposition

Doctors groups oppose posting malpractice settlement information online.

Hadley Callaway, president of the North Carolina Medical Society, said the information on settlements would not be useful for consumers. He said the medical society wants the state medical board to investigate if the settlements were the result of substandard care, and then list those cases.

Callaway also said the new rules could create more litigation because physicians would be reluctant to settle cases.

Christopher Snyder, president of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, said many malpractice settlements are a business decision and not necessarily an admission of guilt from physicians. Snyder said the listing on malpractice settlements should include how much the suing attorney made in the settlement and how often the plaintiff has filed malpractice suits (Linker, Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area, 5/5).

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