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Because of the intense media swarm around Michael Jackson’s death, it might have seemed inevitable that the physician who administered the fatal dose of anesthesia to the pop singer would be charged with a crime.

But there’s a reason Dr. Conrad Murray was not formally accused of anything until nearly eight months after Jackson’s death. Doctors who screw up are rarely charged with crimes, unless they have committed insurance fraud.

Mostly, this makes sense.

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The Medical Board of California had been warned repeatedly about an obstetrician with a history of patient deaths and allegations of negligence, but, instead of taking action, the board appointed him to supervise a doctor who had been found negligent in the death of two children.

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There was a collective cry of alarm this week to news that the Medical Board of California had mishandled the case of a physician accused of negligence in the abortion-related death of a patient.

I wrote about the Dr. Andrew Rutland case on Tuesday, detailing how the medical board had appointed a doctor who had been disciplined by the board to oversee Rutland, in violation of the board’s own policies. Here is what happened next:

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Unless someone has had a bad experience with an insurance company, most people think of insurers as either benign or positive forces in their lives. It’s the president from “24” telling us in a deep, reassuring voice that we’ll be taken care of.

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UPDATE: Rutland will be allowed to continue practicing but cannot perform surgeries or deliveries after a judge's Jan. 7 decision. Here's the Orange County Register story.

 

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Follow the money. That simple phrase – though never uttered by Bob Woodward’s most famous source – has propelled countless reporters to dig deeply into all manner of news stories.

And nearly four decades after Woodward and Carl B

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Freelance journalist Martha Rosenberg recently made an interesting comparison between embattled drug giant Wyeth and former insurance giant AIG. The latter famously handed out massive bonuses and planned lavish company retreats at a time when the company was receiving billions in federal bailout funds.

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When Los Angeles Times reporter Lisa Girion and health policy consultant Peter Harbage talk about health reform and health insurance, the result is an exceedingly well-informed discussion with lots of concrete story ideas for journalists.

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The shimmering blue lights of the Terminal Island Bridge, rising above the Port of Los Angeles, belie the intense pollution that emanates from the nation’s largest port and compromises the health of nearby communities.  

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Most reporters never have the misfortune of being sued for libel. If they are, there are broad free speech protections in court precedent, especially in California, that make it unlikely a plaintiff will win, unless a reporter has been truly reckless.

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