How To File A Complaint Against A Doctor

If you have experienced poor treatment at the hands of a doctor, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to turn. Maybe you were misdiagnosed or mistakes were made during your procedure. Maybe you were the victim of outright fraud. This handy guide lists your options on where and how to file a complaint against a doctor. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

4 Ways To File A Complaint Against A Doctor

  1. Contact your state medical board. Visit the board’s website for a printable form or other instructions on filing your complaint. The board will review your case and decide whether to formally investigate and take action against the physician. You may wish to seek legal advice if you have questions about filing your complaint.
  2. File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The only type of doctor-related complaints the BBB accepts are those involving billing practices. An example would be if you received unexpected or unfamiliar charges for medical services. For anything else, the organization will refer you elsewhere. Once you have filed a BBB complaint, you can let the doctor know via a letter.
  3. Rate the doctor online. Visit websites such as healthgrades.com to provide a rating and enter comments regarding your experience with a given doctor. People are increasingly turning to such resources before deciding whether to start seeing a doctor.
  4. Hire a lawyer. If you wish to take legal action, you’ll want an attorney experienced in medical malpractice law to represent you. Common malpractice cases involve situations like childbirth injuries, surgical errors, or misdiagnosis. A lawyer can advise on your best legal options.

How Can I File A Complaint With My State’s Medical Board?

Most state medical boards provide printable forms on their websites. Once you have filled in the requested information, you can mail or fax the completed forms back. Online resources provide links to each state’s medical board website.

How Can I File A Complaint With the Better Business Bureau?

Visit the Better Business Bureau’s website and click on “File a Complaint.” As we mentioned, the only type of doctor-related complaints the BBB handles are those involving billing practices, such as unexpected or unfamiliar charges.

What Is Considered Unprofessional Conduct By A Doctor?

The American Medical Association lists the following as unprofessional conduct, per the Federation of State Medical Boards:

  • Abuse of a patient
  • Failure to meet standards of care
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Prescribing drugs when not medically necessary
  • Poor record keeping
  • Failure to meet doctors’ continuing education requirements

How Can I Lessen The Chances I Will Experience Medical Malpractice?

Experts recommend that patients be proactive by doing research, documenting symptoms, and writing things down – including their questions and the doctor’s answers. In addition, although you may trust your healthcare provider, listen to your body and speak up when you feel it’s necessary. Also, having a family member or close friend accompany you to doctor visits could prove helpful.

Celebrities (Or Their Relatives) Who Sued for Malpractice

Name Circumstances
Julie Andrews After undergoing surgery to remove cancerous nodules from her throat, the “Mary Poppins” actress claimed the procedure damaged her vocal cords. The parties settled for an undisclosed sum.
Dana Carvey The comedian had heart surgery in 1997, after which the surgeon realized he had bypassed the wrong artery. A court awarded Carvey $7.5 million, which he donated to charity.
Hulk Hogan The professional wrestler underwent surgery for a back condition. He later claimed his procedures were unnecessary and sued the doctors and spinal care facility. The surgeries rendered him unable to wrestle, he said.
John Ritter The actor, known for his role in ‘70s and ‘80s comedy TV show “Three’s Company,” died from an aortic tear in 2003. Doctors misdiagnosed him as having a heart attack and as such, treated him incorrectly. His family sued the doctors and the hospital. They received $14 million in settlements.
Joan Rivers The comedian died in 2014 after doctors were slow to notice her vital signs failing during a routine endoscopy. Her daughter sued the doctors and clinic. They reached a settlement, with the doctors accepting responsibility.
Tiger Woods The professional golfer was admitted to the hospital after being in a car crash in 2009. He later accused a former nurse there of accessing his medical records without his permission.

In Depth

If you have experienced poor treatment by a doctor, you may be wondering what to do. Patients have complained against doctors for a multitude of wrongs, including misdiagnosis, mistakes during procedures, and outright fraud. If you have been mistreated by a physician and don't know where to turn, don't delay. Here we'll list four options for filing a complaint against a doctor.

First, know that even doctors of the rich and famous can make the deadliest of errors. Take comedian Joan Rivers, who died from a botched endoscopy and laryngoscopy in 2014. During the procedures, her vital signs began to wane. Doctors initially failed to notice this, and she ended up in a coma from lack of oxygen. She never woke up, and she died a few days later.

The comedian's daughter Melissa Rivers filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctors who had performed the surgery. The suit was settled in 2016, with the doctors accepting responsibility. Whether your own medical treatment was blatantly negligent or simply didn't meet your standards, here are your options for filing a complaint against a doctor.

Whether your own medical treatment was blatantly negligent or simply didn't meet your standards, here are your options for filing a complaint against a doctor.

Option #1: Contact your state medical board. There, you can file a complaint against your doctor. They may choose to investigate the matter and can temporarily revoke the doctor's license if they find cause. As with any type of serious complaint, don't delay in filing it. The more water under the bridge, the less chance you have for recourse. Get contact information for your state medical board by checking out our guide on how to file a complaint against a doctor. Scroll below this video to read it.

Each state's medical board requires that you either write a letter or print and fill out a form. Then you'll need to mail or fax it in. Be concise and specific, and list the outcome you desire. Know that the state board complaint process may be drawn out and hard to prove if no one else has complained about your doctor. If there are enough complaints and evidence, the board will have reason to launch a formal investigation.

Option #2: File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If your complaint specifically involves your doctor's billing practices, you can contact the BBB. Note that this organization does not handle complaints about physicians' billing rates or quality of services. "Such complaints are routinely referred to professional boards which are more qualified to consider any such matter," the organization states.

Note that this organization does not handle complaints about physicians' billing rates or quality of services.

The types of doctor-related complaints the BBB does handle include unexpected or unfamiliar medical charges. For instance, one medical company made headlines for charging new moms hundreds of dollars for unknown services, prompting dozens of BBB complaints. It turns out the third-party company administered newborn hearing screenings, which weren't always covered by the patients' insurance.

If you wish to file a BBB complaint regarding billing practices of a doctor or medical company, visit our guide for step-by-step instructions. Access it by checking out our guide on how to file a complaint against a doctor. Scroll below this video to read it.

Option #3: Rate the doctor online. Websites like healthgrades.com allow you to review your doctor and rate his or her services on a five-star scale. In addition to seeking word-of-mouth opinions on doctors, many people now also look up a doctor on such websites before deciding whether to book a first-time appointment.

In addition to seeking word-of-mouth opinions on doctors, many people now also look up a doctor on such websites before deciding whether to book a first-time appointment.

Option #4: Hire an attorney. If you believe your doctor has committed medical malpractice, you may wish to speak with an attorney to find out what recourse you have. Common malpractice cases include childbirth injuries, misdiagnosis, and errors in surgery. While we aren't lawyers and this isn't legal advice, a medical malpractice attorney can advise you on next steps and whether your claim is worth pursuing.

Court cases are common among serious malpractice situations. Take the case of Detroit-area doctor Farid Fata, who was behind what prosecutors called one of the worst medical malpractice cases in U.S. history. Fata gave expensive cancer drugs to multiple patients who did not need them, even falsely diagnosing some people with cancer in order to make money off their treatments. He pleaded guilty in court and received 45 years in prison.

In all, you may decide to follow one or more of these four avenues, depending on your individual circumstances. Know that whatever your outcome, if a doctor is truly committing unethical or negligent acts, it can help other patients by your making it known. For more help getting started in filing a complaint or finding legal advice, consult our full guide on how to file a complaint against a doctor. You can find it right beneath this video.

Know that whatever your outcome, if a doctor is truly committing unethical or negligent acts, it can help other patients by your making it known.

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