State Medical Boards: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

State Medical Boards: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Medical Errors and Consequences

  • Medical errors are a significant problem, with over 250,000 deaths per year in the US attributed to medical error.
  • Some doctors commit serious errors due to negligence, incompetence, or misconduct.

State Medical Boards

  • State Medical Boards are responsible for issuing, suspending, or revoking licenses, but the process is slow and underfunded, leading to delays and disruptions in investigations.
  • Some doctors facing serious misconduct allegations continue to practice while their cases are being reviewed, potentially putting patients at risk.
  • Medical boards are mostly comprised of doctors, with only about half across the nation meeting the recommended standard of having a quarter of the membership be public members or advocates for patients.
  • The lack of public representation on medical boards can lead to decisions being made with doctor care in mind rather than patient care, potentially costing patient lives.

National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)

  • The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a federal repository of information on medical practitioners, but it is not accessible to the public.
  • Hospitals can find ways to skirt reporting requirements for doctors who lose privileges, and some state medical boards do not check the NPDB when granting licenses to out-of-state doctors.

Difficulty in Finding Information

  • It can be difficult for patients to find complete information about physicians on their state medical board websites.

Medical Board Reform

  • Medical boards are underfunded, understaffed, and under-organized, making it difficult to reform them.
  • Lawmakers could add more public members to state medical boards, increase their funding, and require all disciplinary actions against doctors to be easily accessible on a public website.


  • The vast majority of doctors are good, but the medical field relies on absolute trust, and the current system for disciplining bad doctors is inadequate.
  • Reforming medical boards would benefit everyone, including good doctors.

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