Physicians Reluctant to Report Impaired and Incompetent Colleagues | DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Posted by Salvatore J. Zambri, founding partner

As reported in the July issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a recent study indicated that, “Peer monitoring and reporting are the primary mechanisms for identifying physicians who are impaired or otherwise incompetent to practice, but data suggest that the rate of such reporting is lower than it should be.”  Approximately two-thirds of the responding physicians with direct knowledge of a colleague’s impairment or incompetence have reported it.

JAMA’s summary of the study offers the following conclusion:

“Overall, physicians support the professional commitment to report all instances of impaired or incompetent colleagues in their medical practice to a relevant authority; however, when faced with these situations, many do not report.”

With such weak statistics to support physicians’ beliefs as contrasted with their actual behavior, one editorialist says that the findings “constitute a frontal assault on a basic premise of medical professionalism.”

  • “Roughly two thirds “completely agreed” that such colleagues should be reported.
  • Again, two thirds felt “very” or “somewhat” prepared to deal with these colleagues.
  • Of those with “direct personal knowledge” of an impaired or incompetent colleague, two thirds reported it to a relevant authority.
  • The most common reasons for failure to report were the beliefs that someone else was addressing the issue and that “nothing would happen” as a result.”

Physicians need to become more diligent in self-policing their profession to prevent impaired or incompetent colleagues from continuing to harm patients.  As with any profession, a reputation that becomes tainted by those who are not doing their job affects the whole industry.

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About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Attorney and Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. He has been acknowledged by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 1%” of all of the more than 80,000 lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also acknowledged him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers”  who specializes in medical malpractice matters, product liability claims, and serious automobile accident claims. Mr. Zambri has also been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Law and Politics magazine (2010)–a national publication that honors the top lawyers in America.

Mr. Zambri is regularly asked to present seminars to lawyers and doctors, as well as both medical and law students concerning medication errors, medical malpractice litigation, and safety improvements.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at or call him at 202-822-1899.