According to a CBS News Investigation, some of the doctors with the highest number of malpractice payouts are still practicing and have not lost their licenses. In Florida, Dr. Ernest Rehnke was responsible for the death of a 42 year-old mother of two young children having a routine appendectomy. He denied wrongdoing but settled for $250,000, the maximum amount that his insurance would pay for a single claim. CBS discovered that Dr. Rehnke has paid 11 medical malpractice settlements only since 2000 – tying him for the most of any practicing physician in Florida, yet he retains his license.
Of the 25 doctors with the most malpractice payouts in Florida, CBS News found just four of them lost their licenses – and three of those only after arrests for drug trafficking or billing fraud.
A report from the watchdog group Public Citizen found that from 1990 to 2009, more than half the doctors in the U.S. who had their privileges restricted or revoked by a hospital had never even been fined by their state medical board. And hospitals generally only go after the most dangerous physicians.
Public Citizen has also ranked medical boards based on the number of actions taken per physician in their state. South Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Florida are the three states with the least action taken by the State Medical Boards.