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Mike Tharp is the executive editor of the Merced Sun-Star. He attended the Mar. 2010 seminar for the California Health Journalism Fellows as the editor of Fellow Danielle Gaines, where he met the subject of this column, Dr. Edward Newton, chair of Emergency Medicine at the Los Angeles County USC Hospital.

Picture of William Heisel

When your child dies because of mistakes made by a doctor, you can sue. Scott and Kathy Broussard did that when Dr. Andrew Rutland twisted their daughter Jillian Broussard's neck so severely that he separated her head from her spine. Most patients either lose in court or settle their cases. If they settle, they go silent. How many times have you called a patient's family to be told, "We can't talk under the terms of the settlement."? The Broussards settled their case, but that didn't stop them from talking.

Picture of William Heisel

Scott Broussard is a battalion chief with the Costa Mesa Fire Department. He’s used to knocking down doors when there is an emergency and trying to stay steady in the midst of chaos. Kathy Broussard is a pediatric intensive care nurse who has seen children die and children saved from the brink of death. She is now focused on raising her two children.

Picture of William Heisel

The doctor did it. In the bedroom. With an an anesthetic.

The Los Angeles County Coroner spent 51 pages of minute calculations and detailed examinations to come to that simple conclusion on Aug. 24, 2009. Jackson had died from a lethal dose of propofol and other drugs and the death was a homicide.

This was perhaps the most surprising thing about the Michael Jackson case, because coroners are so reluctant to say a physician killed someone.

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The readers of the Lancaster (Penn.) New Era had ample reason to be doubtful of the new doctor who had come to town being touted as “the infant whisperer.”

The New Era wrote a classic, glowing profile, quoting patients who said Dr. Saroj K. Parida, chief of neonatology at Lancaster Regional Medical Center, had saved their children’s lives. And perhaps he had.

Picture of William Heisel

Here’s where you have to pity Dr. Conrad Murray, regardless of whether you think he’s guilty.

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Dr. Conrad Murray made his first mistake when he signed on to be Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Perhaps the task was doomed for any doctor, but Murray was particularly ill equipped to deal with the King of Pop’s concoction of quirks and cravings. Murray was operating well outside of

Picture of William Heisel

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.

Picture of William Heisel

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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