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Malpractice suit became an issue in recent Arizona election

The special election to choose a replacement for the 8th Congressional District seat vacated by Rep. Trent Franks, who resigned late last year following a surrogacy scandal, brought to public attention a medical malpractice suit against one candidate. Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, a Democrat from Glendale, appears to have lost the race to Republican Debbie Lesko of Peoria by just five points in a solidly Republican district that Donald Trump won by more than 20 points less than 18 months ago.

Dr. Tipirneni settled the malpractice suit months before giving up her career as an emergency room physician. A woman whom Tipirneni treated back in 2001 sued the doctor and her medical group for "permanent injury and disability." She accused Tipirneni of failing to give her a tetanus shot for a wound. The 72-year-old woman contracted tetanus, fell into a coma and suffered kidney failure. She later died.

The doctor, who says she hasn't treated patients in over a decade, contends that it wasn't the lawsuit or the woman's death that caused her to change career paths, but the deaths of her mother and nephew from cancer within a few years. She currently works for a Virginia company as a scientific review officer and describes herself as a "cancer research advocate."

Dr. Tipirneni did not lose her Arizona medical license as a result of the patient's death. She faced no disciplinary action by the Arizona Medical Board.

Tipirneni's campaign accused Lesko, who is currently a state senator, of "trying to distract voters from her agenda of cutting Medicare, Social Security and access to healthcare for Arizonans" by bringing up the malpractice suit. About the case, Tipernini said, "I did my best job as I did every time with every patient. Although you feel very bad for any bad outcome and consequences a patient deals with, not every bad outcome is because of a mistake or bad medicine."

While this case didn't lead to the loss -- or threatened loss -- of a medical license, many cases of alleged malpractice and misconduct do. Physicians who are facing disciplinary action by the state medical board and the possibility of losing their license to practice medicine should seek experienced legal guidance so that they can effectively present their case.

Source: ABC 15 Arizona, "ABC15 looks into malpractice lawsuit surrounding CD8 candidate Hiral Tipirneni," Melissa Blasius, April 11, 2018

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