Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why not discipline bad doctors?

The state of Illinois (Department of Financial and Professional Responsibility) is famous for its failure to investigate the public's claims of medical errors against physicians and surgeons. And no wonder. The IDFPR is a mega-agency whose responsibility includes accountants, locksmiths, physicians and just about every profession in between.

The result of this failure is that patients are forced into the medical malpractice system.

Dr. Chris Dangles (an orthopedic surgeon with Carle Clinic Association in Urbana, Illinois) made a horrible clinical error with me. I sent his name to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in 2006 and that agency never even investigated the situation. I was forced into continuing a medical negligence claim against Dr. Dangles.

I was always very athletic. In August 2000 I was teaching my puppy how to jog with me. The puppy was on a leash. The puppy chased a bunny and, when she did, my foot went into a hole. The result was a relatively simple sprain to my left ankle.

But nothing is "simple" when you want to be a runner. So I dutifully made an appointment with my primary care provider (I was a member of the Carle physician owned HMO) and she sent me to an orthopedic surgeon.

That first orthopedic surgeon that I saw (Robert Gurtler, M.D.) was also a sports medicine physician at Carle Clinic. He told me not to have surgery on the foot. But then my Carle Clinic primary care physician referred me to a second orthopedic surgeon. Unfortunately, that second orthopedic surgeon was Chris Dangles, M.D.

Dr. Dangles was quick to recommend surgery on the left ankle. Dangles did not offer any of the nonconservative alternatives to surgery that was recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Just surgery.

The surgery to my left ankle failed. Three months later, Dr. Dangles re-did the surgery to the left foot. During the casting period, I felt what I now know was the peroneal tendon popping. But Dr. Dangles told me that nothing bad can ever happen to an ankle that is casted. And so I continued to trust and believe Dr. Dangles.

I was not stable on the left foot and I kept falling down.

After the left ankle cast was removed, Dr. Dangles arranged to have surgery performed on my right ankle. He scheduled the surgery despite the fact that there was no injury to the right foot. Dr. Dangles had commented since our first meeting that the right lateral ligaments were clinically looser than the left lateral ligaments.

While testifying under oath, Chris Dangles, M.D. stated that he does not know why he performed surgery on the right foot. Dr. Dangles stated that the patient talked him into performing the surgery. In fact, Dr. Dangles testified that his staff asked him why he was performing the surgery on the patient since she had trouble walking and fell down regularly. Dr. Dangles did not know why the patient would even want the surgery. Ugggh.

Having the first two surgeries on my left ankle effected me tremendously. I was in pain and more depressed. I had a lot of difficulty maintaining my legal practice (I was a practicing attorney before my surgeries with Dr. Dangles).

Dr. Dangles testified under oath that:

1. he (Dr. Dangles) did not know why I (the patient) fell down after the surgery.

2. he (Dr. Dangles) suspected I (the patient) had an alcohol problem! What? He suspected an alcohol problem before he performed the surgery on right foot. The surgery that Dr. Dangles did not know why he performed!

Okay. Let me nip any question in the bud ---- I have no alcohol problem. Never have had an alcohol or any substance abuse issue.

The repeated, painful and unnecessary surgeries did cause me to suffer with depression. And, my depression effected and in many cases harmed those around me. I have taken responsibility for the effect and damage I caused other people during my period of depression.

Why can't physicians accept responsibility for their errors and misjudgments? Shouldn't Illinois have a Board of Medicine that is a dedicated agency whose mandate is to protect the public by disciplining "bad doctors"?

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