In the Case of Earl Bradley, Is Our System Flawed?
by, 03-11-2010 at 01:48 PM (4050 Views)
In a chilling case of untoward abuse, Delaware pediatrician, Earl Bradley, was indicted on 471 counts of rape, assault, and child endangerment involving 103 children. I find the shear magnitude of this case overwhelming, particularly when the following warning signs dated back to 2005 or earlier.
We must be cognizant that abuse can occur in any setting. In this case children were abused by an authority figure in what should have been a safe environment – a physician’s office. According to the Federation of State Medical Boards, physicians were reported for sexual misconduct in 7.1 percent of complaints nationwide.
- Former patients shared stories of Bradley’s unusual practices with other pediatricians.
- The hospital, where Bradley served as chief of pediatrics, restricted his practice at one point.
- Bradley’s office manager alerted the Delaware Medical Society to patient complaints of inappropriate conduct.
Although red flags were raised, no complaints were filed with the Delaware State Medical Board thus no regulatory investigations were made into Bradley’s behavior. Bradley was arrested when police acted on a complaint from a patient.
State medical boards have a mandate to protect the public and a responsibility to monitor physician’s competence and professional conduct. Further, healthcare professionals have a professional and ethical obligation to report unprofessional conduct. Yet when two nurses in Winkler County, Texas reported a physician to the medical board for unsafe care, they found themselves facing felony charges.
Given this dichotomy, how can our regulatory system best ensure patient safety? In Canada, peer review is one method used to assess physician’s practices. Perhaps if physicians and other healthcare providers were routinely reviewed by peers, behavioral issues would be noted earlier.
What are your thoughts on reforming our system?