California’s Malpractice Cap Allows Dangerous Doctors to Flourish

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UPDATE: Dr. Chambi wrote to Consumer Watchdog to dispute the outcome of two cases cited in this news report in April 2011.

Download Dr. Chambi's letter here.

Download the archived Orange County Register story here. The story's author, Chris Knap, is currently Senior Team Leader for Government, Politics and Investigations for the paper.

Dr. Chambi was terminated or his staff privileges were revoked at Western Medical Center Santa Ana in May 2007, according to the Medical Board of California.


Santa Monica, CA –Neurosurgeon Israel Chambi, who continues to treat patients despite over thirty lawsuits and three disciplinary actions in the last eleven years, illustrates the danger that a medical malpractice damage cap keeps bad doctors in practice, stated consumer advocates with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today.

According to a report by the Orange County Register (May 18, 2003), Dr. Israel Chambi has been sued 33 times since 1992. Accusations against Chambi include performing unnecessary surgeries, repeated medical errors and lying to patients about their condition or surgical outcome. Chambi lost or settled ten of the cases, and more than $3 million has been paid to patients and their families on his behalf.

California's 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act caps "non-economic" damages in malpractice cases at $250,000. It limits physician and hospital liability when medical errors or negligence occur. The neurosurgery department Dr. Chambi chairs generates more than $38 million a year for Western Medical Center Santa Ana, a financial incentive to let Chambi continue operating regardless of his history of errors and lies, according to FTCR.

"California's damage cap gives hospitals no incentive to stop bad doctoring, or bar doctors that repeatedly make mistakes from the operating room," said FTCR's Carmen Balber. "33 lawsuits in 11 years is an epidemic, but because California's malpractice cap dramatically limits the financial risk of negligent care, Dr. Chambi was more valuable operating than suspended."

Legislation to impose a California-style cap is currently being considered in several states, and in Congress. The Tenet hospital chain, operators of Western Medical, has been investigated in other parts of the nation, including Northern California, for corporate practices which allowed unnecessary procedures similar to those carried out by Chambi to be performed.

"Medical malpractice caps do not only mean that injured patients do not get justice, they result in repeat offenders like Dr. Chambi and Tenet Hospital, which get the message that medical providers in California aren't held accountable for their mistakes."


Consumer Watchdog
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