A recent KVOA article tells the story of Carol Roman, a Tucson woman whose husband, Louis Salica, died of a heart ailment in 2005 at the Tucson Heart Hospital. Roman sued the hospital and Salica's cardiologist for malpractice; the jury determined that both played a part in Salica's death and awarded Roman $1 million.
This case information, along with every malpractice judgment or settlement involving physicians licensed in Arizona, used to be available on the Arizona Medical Board website. However, that information was removed from the site in 2008, when the board upgraded its database. It has not been restored. Instead, only malpractice cases resulting in board discipline of a doctor will be posted. Advisory Letters and Physician Responses to Advisory Letters remain available online for a period of five years from the date of issuance by the Board.
There is an inherent risk associated with any medical treatment or procedure and not all medical errors necessarily amount to actionable medical malpractice. However, common malpractice claims against doctors may include:
Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose and delayed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Medical procedure errors
- Medication errors, including anesthesiologist malpractice
- Failure to monitor a patient following surgery, treatment or procedures
According to wrongdiagnosis.com, wrongful death and permanent injury claims made up 90% of medical malpractice trials in 75 of the larges counties in the United States in 2001. There were 18,999 medical malpractice payment reports made in 2002.
Unless there is a dismissal or finding that the doctor was not negligent, malpractice cases may end in settlement or a judge or jury award. For patients wanting to research potential doctors prior to receiving care, this information is critical.
Currently, there is no mention of malpractice under the name of Salica's cardiologist. So a heart patient researching cardiologists on the board's website would not know this doctor settled a claim against himself and Tucson Heart Hospital for $1 million.
Public Access and Alternative Resources
The board, which reviews every malpractice judgment and settlement, is not saying when the malpractice information might reappear. It maintains that the public is still protected because other disciplinary actions taken against doctors are still available on its website.
While websites for various judicial districts in Arizona may offer some civil case information, settlement information is almost never visible on these sites, as the settlement agreement is not always made part of the court record or may be sealed in some cases.
Additionally, the Arizona Better Business Bureau may not have information on cases unless it was additionally presented to the bureau in the form of a consumer complaint. Currently, Tucson Heart Hospital holds a BBB rating of A and lists only one complaint in the last 36 months, a billing complaint that has been resolved.
Patients questioning the level of care they have received, or loved ones concerned about failure in care or diagnosis should contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney to learn about their options. If there is a claim, an experienced attorney can help gather and preserve the necessary evidence and protect the patient's financial interests in trial or settlement.