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Removing doctors in settlements can deflect oversight

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 21, 2012

Medical malpractice attorneys who represent patients' families say that removing doctors as defendants has increasingly become a common negotiating tactic for hospitals' attorneys in reaching settlements in such cases in southwestern Pennsylvania—particularly with UPMC. "If a case is settled under the doctor's name, it has to be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank," said Veronica Richards, a Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorney who represents patients and patients' families. "So [removing the doctors] is a way for the hospital to protect the doctor." The information in the data bank is then used by hospitals in assessing whether to hire a doctor and by state medical boards in deciding whether to discipline a doctor.