In 2005, a Suffolk County jury decided that Dr. Mary Ames-Castro and another obstetrician caused irreversible brain damage to an infant girl during a delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital. The $23.8 million malpractice judgment was one of the largest in state history.
But the judgment was never entered in a public database maintained by the state Board of Registration in Medicine. The board erased Ames-Castro’s profile from the database because she let her license expire after the botched procedure.
Now she is practicing medicine in Oregon under her maiden name, Mary Beth Ames, and also holds a license in Wisconsin. Because neither Oregon nor Wisconsin publicly records out-of-state malpractice judgments - and because Massachusetts deleted Ames-Castro’s profile - her current patients are left with the false impression that their doctor has a clean record.
The veil of secrecy afforded to Ames-Castro is commonplace in Massachusetts, due to physician-friendly provisions in state law, the board’s policy of purging certain records, sometimes in violation of state law, and outdated technology. Over the last two decades, these routine omissions and removals have taken thousands of embarrassing records out of public view, according to a comparison by the Northeastern University Initiative of the board’s records and a nationwide database maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
For example, there have been 35 criminal convictions of Massachusetts doctors since 2002. In most states, such convictions are posted permanently online; in Massachusetts, not one is listed in the state medical board database.
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