Check out doctors and lawyers, if they let you, before you need them

The question was valid: Why wasn’t I pounding on the State Bar of Nevada for not putting the disciplinary actions against Nevada lawyers on its Web site? After all, I had certainly hammered the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners and the Nevada Board of Osteopathic Medicine for failing to put detailed medical malpractice information on their sites.

Dutifully, I called the State Bar … and found out the Bar does have that information on its Web site, and has for nearly a year. (I didn’t know that.)

Now the disciplinary action against lawyers is not easy to find. If you want to check out your attorney, here are some practical tips. First go to www.nvbar.org. Look at the list of options on the left. Your instincts would say: Go to the section marked “DISCIPLINE.” That would be wrong.

Go to “MEMBER SERVICES.” Click on “attorney search” and put in the name of the attorney you’re interested in. To check for disciplinary action against him or her, click on the bar number and scroll down. If there’s any public discipline, you can see it there and even click on the actual documents which provide details.

Bar spokesman Phil Pattee said the Bar’s Board of Governors didn’t resist making the information available on the Internet, but there were technical challenges. Disciplinary actions against Nevada attorneys since 2003 are on the site. If you want to check before that, call the Bar and ask.

Back to the bad docs. There’s positive news from the Nevada Board of Osteopathic Medicine and continued bad news from the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners.

The medical board still hasn’t reinstated the malpractice information about doctors on its Web site, information removed from the site in 2005.

The board decided in June 2008 the information should be returned to the site at www.medboard.nv.gov and made more accessible. It should have taken six months; but 16 months later, it’s still not done.

You can find brief sanitized summaries of disciplinary actions against an M.D., but you cannot find malpractice information unless you call 775-688-2559.

Former executive director Louis Ling blamed the technical folks for the delay in returning malpractice information to the site.

Now, the medical board has had plenty of things to keep it busy, from the endoscopy scandal to the kerfuffle over medical assistants giving shots.

But here’s the reality: The doctors on the medical board don’t care how long it takes before this information is available to the public, because they never really wanted the information easily available to the public. They think the public doesn’t understand how often malpractice claims are without merit. (Of course, the claims dismissed are not put on the site.)

Meanwhile, the Board of Osteopathic Medicine at www.bom.nv.gov notes whether malpractice information exists against an osteopath (the medical board doesn’t). Then you can call the Osteopathic Board at 877-325-7828 toll free and get details over the phone.

Plus, the osteopathic board was the first of the two boards to provide actual documents online.

Wander through the section titled “ENFORCEMENT” and check out “Disciplinary Action” and there is a wealth of detailed information about DO’s with disciplinary problems. Medical issues, billing issues, ethical issues — they’re all there in detail. Settlements with 13 doctors were approved at the October board meeting and are now online.

Dianna Hegeduis, executive director of the osteopathic board, said, “We are working as fast as we can to get as much information as we can on the Web site.”

The DO board has become more aggressive policing the 1,000 doctors they regulate than under former executive director Dr. Larry Tarno. Tarno preferred to handle things informally until he retired in 2008.

Hooray for a board that accepts that part of its job is to help the public check out their doctors by providing more transparency.

People ought to research their doctors and lawyers, because they are among the most important people anyone hires. One handles your health, the other your legal issues.

Before you decide to pick your attorney from the phone book or a television ad, run the name through the State Bar of Nevada’s Web site. What you find might surprise you, even horrify you.

If you don’t care enough to check out your doctors and lawyers, don’t blame anyone but yourself.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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