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What’s the Point of Medical Licensing?

A surgeon emailed me the following:. OK, I know this is radical but consider my argument… Medical licensing protects no one and costs physicians hundreds to thousands of dollars each year. If a physician is negligent, can the injured party sue the state that licensed him? I’m guessing not. When I moved to my current location, I had to send lots of documentation to the state medical board so they could verify that I was a true and competent surgeon. I provided my employer with the same info so they could also verify my credentials. Now my employer can and will get sued if I commit a negligent act and absolutely should verify my credentials prior to handing me a scalpel. But the state? Its license is useless. Most people choose a surgeon based on recommendations and word-of-mouth reputation, and these are by far better indicators of quality than any credentialing board. Nobody asks to see my license, and, even if they did, it would not protect them any more than their trust in the health system in which I work. If I was in private practice and had my license displayed on my wall, it may give some reassurance to my patients, but it does not say anything about the quality of my work. Most doctors who really screw up due to negligence are licensed by the state. I contend again, that word of mouth and reputation are the best indicators of a surgeon’s ability, anything beyond that is useless. Caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware” remains the mantra of the informed consumer. Thanks for letting me vent....
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