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Virginia keeps lips zipped on ER doc's dangerous slips

Virginia keeps lips zipped on ER doc's dangerous slips

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If you have the misfortune of suffering a heart attack, you hope at least a few things might go right when you are wheeled into the ER.

You hope the doctor on duty will give you the right tests.

You hope the doctor will read those tests correctly to make a solid diagnosis.

You hope the doctor will admit you to the hospital if you need further care.

For ER patients who saw Dr. Michael Charles Abraham, all such hope was lost, according to medical board records. At least four patients showed up at the ER with warning signs that Abraham missed, leading to a permanent ban on Abraham practicing emergency medicine.

For patients in Virginia, though, all hope of ever finding out anything about Abraham is lost. The Virginia Board of Medicine makes finding out about doctors cumbersome, frustrating and, in some cases, futile.

Visit the Virginia Board of Medicine's Practitioner Information page and type in Abraham's name. You are told that Abraham's license is "not Active. The individual has no statutory responsibility to provide information for the profile web site. More information may be available at our License Lookup site."

So you click on "License Lookup" and you are told roughly the same thing, but there is a tiny clue thrown in. It says, "Additional Public Information: Yes."

One may ask why the board would not include a link, as other boards do, that says "disciplinary actions" or "enforcement actions." Let's give Virginia the benefit of the doubt for now. Maybe there's some great public information on the next page.

Or not.

Patients who click through are told: "You have left Virginia Department of Health Professions License-Lookup Web Site"

A normal response to this would be: "Oh no! I took a wrong turn. I better go back to that Practitioner Information site."

The correct, albeit counterintuitive, response would be to scroll through the boilerplate at the top of the page and click on "I have read and understand the information."

If you do, you will find out that Abraham can practice medicine in Virginia mostly unfettered, but that he has been on probation "based on charges of 20 specifications of professional misconduct, including gross negligence and incompetence with regard to patient care."

That's everything.

Here's another reasonable response: "Twenty charges? But I just dropped off my mother at this guy's office." Followed by: "Whatever he did, it must not be serious because the Virginia board just put him on probation."

An intrepid patient, though, might take note that Abraham also is licensed in New York. As Antidote has suggested before, if you check your doctor and can't find any information in your state, check New York or California. If your doctor happens to be licensed there, too, you will be rewarded with much more information.

The New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct provides nearly everything you would want to know about Abraham, for free. That's where you'll find out about the four patients whose perilous health conditions were missed by Abraham.

You shouldn't have to hope your doctor is licensed in another state to find out about his past.

Final question: How much clicking does it take to find out even the bare-bones information provided by Virginia? It took Antidote nine clicks to find that reference to "20 specifications of professional misconduct."

Jenn Harris contributed to this report.

View this doctor and others on the Doctors Behaving Badly Google map.

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