Here’s the headline an article yesterday in The Daily Beast: “Ben Carson Was Sued for Malpractice at Least Eight Times.” Uh oh, is this an actual hit piece against Carson’s medical record? Isn’t that a first?
But then here’s the first line: “Ben Carson had a pretty remarkable track record for a job that involved slicing people’s heads open.”
What gives? Is there a dark side to his medical career, or is his “remarkable track record” intact? It turns out it’s likely the latter. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that people who engage in high-stakes brain surgery are more likely to face malpractice claims than other doctors:
A 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 19 percent of neurosurgeons deal with some kind of malpractice claim every year, compared to an average of 5 percent of doctors in family medicine and 3 percent of pediatricians.
Moreover, the article doesn’t indicate whether Carson had ever been found liable of malpractice but then goes on to detail unproven allegations, including a claim that he failed to read an MRI before ordering treatment for a desperately ill patient. However, it ends like this:
Despite the MRI malpractice case, though, most experts agree that Carson had a very small amount of blemishes for a job that is as hard as it gets.
“It doesn’t seem outrageous to me to be honest with you,” Karten said. “This is a very risky area that you’re operating in, the brain. There’s a lot of questions on what a patient is told. But that doesn’t mean it’s malpractice. You have to do something or deviate from the standard of care. I don’t think this is a tremendous amount of malpractice over the years he’s been practicing.”
Two things can be true at once — Ben Carson is one of the greatest neurosurgeons of his generation, and Carson is still human. I have no doubt that he made mistakes on occasion during his decades of medical practice. Yet attacking his medical career is fruitless. Carson is a medical hero for very good reasons, and the Daily Beast piece does nothing to damage his well-earned reputation as a giant in his profession.