When Dr. James Dunphy’s wife passed away in 2009 after an appendicitis procedure, Dr. Dunphy sued the surgeon in charge for negligence. What happened next shocked the nation and even New York City medical malpractice lawyers who were following the CBS News report of correspondents Ben Eisler and Mark Strassman:
The surgeon, Dr. Ernest Rehnke of St. Petersburg, denied wrongdoing. But he settled the case for $250,000 – the maximum his insurance policy would pay for a single claim.
The State Medical Board did nothing else in relation to the case, and that left Dr. Dunphy demanding justice for his wife’s demise.
Notorious in Florida
Further research into the case revealed that Dr. Rehnke has been in this position before with ten previous malpractice lawsuits charged against him. These were all settled with the plaintiffs, but no action was taken against Dr. Rehnke. The report reveals:
A review of Florida records by CBS News found Rehnke has had 11 medical malpractice lawsuit payouts since 2000 – tying him for the most of any practicing physician in Florida. Yet the Florida Board of Medicine, which is responsible for stopping dangerous doctors from practicing, has never restricted his license.
Dr. Dunphy was beyond disappointment when the State Medical Board indicated that they found no reason to take action against Dr. Rehnke after they “investigated” the case. Dr. Dunphy remarked that the merits of the case were so simple that even a first year medical student would understand them. Medical malpractice legal experts, such as those of the New York-based The Law Offices of Joseph M. Lichtenstein, wonder if the case was even investigated initially because of a development that seemed late in coming:
About a year after Susie Dunphy’s death, her husband received a letter in the mail from the Florida Board of Medicine. It said the agency had investigated his wife’s case and found no basis to file a complaint against Rehnke.
The Florida Board of Medicine declared in their statement to the press that they remain diligent in their pursuit of unscrupulous health practitioners. As a result of the report, a Senator has promised to introduce legislation that would improve the board’s ability to protect patients’ rights. This has left Dr. Dunphy feeling hopeful for the future, and that his wife’s case could at least serve to inspire other lawyers in the country.
Should a similar incident happen in New York, don’t hesitate to approach New York City medical malpractice attorneys, such as The Law Offices of Joseph M. Lichtenstein, to pursue the case and to ensure that offenders would be dealt with accordingly.
(Source: “Despite multiple malpractice payouts, doctors often keep practicing”, 12 September 2014, CBS News)