Heavy-handed medical boards increase defensiveness among physicians

LETTER — Posted June 28, 2004

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Regarding "More doctors disciplined as states bolster medical boards" (Article, April 26): Your front-page article about increased state board discipline raises very serious concerns that are unappreciated by nonphysicians.

State medical boards often are just another complex anti-physician entity.

The article might give the impression that speeding to discipline is good, but this means that physicians have to promptly put their families on hold to deal with nuisance complaints and spend thousands of dollars for counsel.

Impaired physicians who truly endanger patient health occasionally exist. Impairment includes neither poorly spelled notes nor off-label dosing and prescribing. Increased funding of the current system of state medical boards does not improve medicine -- it merely increases the perception of state board aggression.

The result? Increased physician defensiveness and the abandonment of difficult patients needing complex care.

It results in a shift in patient care priorities, from connecting personally with patients to keeping utterly meticulous notes. This confuses business accounting with the intimacy of and art of medicine.

James Schaller, MD, Naples, Fla.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/06/28/edlt0628.htm.

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